Where do the taxpayers stand?
While I listened last Thursday at the third public meeting of the Eagle County Taxpayers for Common Sense, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, I wondered if anyone in the room really got the message. Was it to sue the taxing authorities due to old unconstitutional ballot issues, or to attend their board meetings and ask for lower mill levies in 2008 and beyond, or was it just too hard to do and better to move to Arizona or Mexico?
After an hour of public information by local attorney, Rohn Robbins, and questions, I settled on attending as many of the nine board meetings on my tax notice as I can manage to request lowering the mill levies, which will decrease my 2008 property taxes payable in 2009. For those interested, the complete schedule of Board meetings is found at http://www.ectaxpayer.org. Click on “Eagle County Taxing Authorities/District Board Meetings”.
Of further interest were comments by Mark Chapin, our county assessor, who said we now have 82 Taxing Authorities instead of the old number of 79 reported in Feb 2008. He reported residential total sales are down by 40-50% from last year, but the residential sale prices are up. I feel this will mean in 2009 we can expect an increase in the two-year residential assessed property valuations, resulting in higher property taxes payable in 2010. The only way out is for our neighbors who serve on boards and Districts to lower their mill levies!
There was good news too. Beaver Creek Metro District, one of the 43 de-Bruced taxing authorities under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, did lower their mil levy by 4.786 mils in 2007. That resulted in only a 6 percent property tax revenue increase for their friends and neighbors in 2008. Exactly what did the Beaver Creek Metro District understand that the other 42 boards don’t get? Thirty-nine taxing authorities who come under TABOR and the 5.5-percent annual levy law seem to be operating just fine in 2008 with no defaults, shutdowns, or cash flow shortages to run their Eagle County programs!
So how much extra windfall property tax revenue money do taxing authorities really need to operate? I recommend taxpayers attend some board meetings and ask one simple question. How much cash is stashed in your reserve and emergency funds? Taxpayers aren’t going to like some of the answers.