Our View: Vote yes on Amendment B and local Gallagher repeal measures
The state’s Gallagher Amendment was a good idea when passed by Colorado voters in 1982. The measure has outlived its usefulness, particularly in rural Colorado.
Space here is limited, but the Gallagher Amendment sets a permanent ratio in the state’s property tax revenues. Commercial property must always pay 55% of property tax revenues, with residential property making up the rest.
The assessment rate — the taxable portion of a parcel’s county-assessed value — for commercial property is locked by the amendment at 29%. Given that the growth of residential property has far outpaced the growth of commercial property, the assessment rate for those parcels has fallen dramatically.
The current residential assessment rate is 7.15%. It’s expected to drop to 5.88% in 2021.
That decline doesn’t much affect property tax collections in heavily populated areas. In rural areas, the assessment rate declines can be devastating.
Here’s one in example:
Voters in the Gypsum Fire Protection District in 2016 passed a mill levy increase. By 2019, all that voter-approved revenue had been lost to falling assessment rates. The district returned to voters that year, and earned approval to essentially freeze assessment rates.
Other special districts in the valley have made the same move, with voter approval.
For the 2020 election, state officials present voters with Amendment B, which will repeal Gallagher and freeze assessment rates at their current levels.
Eagle County, along with the towns of Vail, Avon and Eagle, are asking voters essentially the same question this fall. So is the Avon-based Eagle River Fire Protection District.
All deserve your support.
Property taxes tend not to draw much attention in Colorado. According to WalletHub.com, our state has the nation’s third-lowest residential property tax burden. Sales tax is the lifeblood of municipalities.
But special districts — fire, school, library and ambulance districts — rely almost entirely on property tax collections.
And in Vail, property tax is still an important part of the town’s revenue stream, helping support police, fire and other municipal services. In Vail, the next cut in the assessment rate will take $1.4 million per year from the town’s general fund.
If voters approve the Gallagher repeals, residential property taxes will go up as property values increase. That’s how it works most places.
But local governments can’t raise tax rates without voter approval, thanks to the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, Amendment, passed by voters in 1992.
It’s that amendment that ultimately will keep a lid on taxes and government spending.
No one likes paying taxes. But we also want well-funded, well-performing public services, from schools to libraries to fire protection. All those things cost money, and operating those services gets more expensive every year.
Those basic services deserve adequate funding, and no one but local taxpayers can maintain them at the levels we all desire.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd and Advertising Director Holli Snyder.
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