Letter: Vote ‘no’ on Colorado Mountain College Ballot Issue 4B
Editor’s note: The following is quoted directly from the Eagle County TABOR Notice for the 2017 Coordinated Election. The notice, required by law to be sent to voters whenever ballot issues deal with raising taxes, includes summaries for and against the ballot text.
Summary of written comments against Ballot Issue 4B: The proposed resolution, put to the voters in November’s election, will increase the property taxes paid in a six-county area. If passed by the electorate, it would sidestep the purpose of TABOR and the Gallagher amendment to TABOR; it will increase the amount of tax levied against both residential and commercial properties.
The resolution does not state what the increased taxes will be used for or any limits on the ability of Colorado Mountain College to continue to increase taxes permanently. It is a blanket approval to increase the property taxes in perpetuity.
The Gallagher amendment was enacted in 1982 as a solution for homeowners concerned with rising residential property taxes. The overall property tax burden is capped at a 55/45 split, commercial properties paying 55 percent of the total property tax values at about 29 percent. The residential assessments change at each assessment to meet the 45 percent remainder of the property taxes.
In 2017, residential properties now are approximately 75 percent of the property tax pool; the Gallagher amendment caps their property taxes at 45 percent, which decreases property taxes available for revenues. This resolution will allow an increase of all property taxes to make up for the college’s projected revenue declines because of the 45 percent cap.
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It should be remembered that in the depression of 2008, the college did not reduce its mill levy, despite the property owners suffering severe decreases in their property values, and the mill levy was assessed at the higher pre-2008 values for the two years Colorado law sets.
Commercial properties in rural areas will be disproportionately affected, as a smaller number of businesses exist to pay the 55 percent, as compared to the residential properties. The resolution attempts to have property owners pay a higher share of property taxes. The resolution gives the college permission for the taxpayers to raise property taxes any time the state constitution requires a cut to residential property assessments.
The college should adapt its budget to the existing mill levy 55/45 percentage set by law. Increasing student tuition and costs, which are already heavily subsidized to the Colorado Mountain College budget by the existing mill levy in a unique funding mechanism, should not cover any downfall of revenues. We do not know the school’s purposes for the use of the proposed tax increase. We do know the college has announced several building projects and purchases of tens of millions of dollars.
The taxpayers are entitled to more explanation of how the funds will be applied by Colorado Mountain College. It is important that businesses and commercial property owners understand what our money is funding.