Our View: Voters should approve tax questions for Eagle, Gypsum fire districts (editorial)
October 26, 2018
The Colorado Constitution is an odd document. Thanks to the citizen initiative process and dozens of amendments over the years, we have a sometimes-conflicting constitutional mish-mash.
Ballot measures 6A and 7E — for the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District and the Gypsum Fire Protection District, respectively — are attempts to bring some sense to the confusion between a pair of those amendments.
The trigger for these ballot issues is the state's Gallagher Amendment, which voters passed in 1982. That amendment mandates that residential property owners shall pay no more than 45 percent of the total property tax collected in the state. The remaining 55 percent is paid by owners of non-residential property.
At the time, the split seemed like a good idea. But as the state's population has grown, the residential/non-residential split has been disproportionately unfair to non-residential property owners. It also means that when the amendment forces down property tax assessment rates, special districts will collect less money, thanks to the other half of this particular constitutional conundrum.
That half is the 1992 Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, amendment. That tax- and revenue-limiting amendment declares that state and local governments cannot automatically raise tax rates if property tax collections fall due to the formula established in Gallagher. Instead, districts must ask voters for rate increases to maintain existing revenues.
The fire districts are asking voters for just that: a property tax rate increase to maintain current revenues.
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This is actually the second time in just two years Gypsum fire has brought a tax proposal to voters. A ballot question passed in 2016 asked district voters for a revenue increase to cover personnel and equipment needs. Now, with the Gallagher/TABOR vise starting to squeeze, Gypsum needs to ask to maintain already approved funding.
Eagle's funding is also set to decline if the constitutional ratchet is allowed to work.
With all that as explanation, these are easy proposals to endorse. Fire protection is an integral part of any community. A good fire department is there in emergencies, of course, but cutbacks in services can also mean higher insurance rates for property owners.
No reasonable person wants to see cuts in fire service or police protection, and these measures are essential to maintain the work done by our downvalley fire districts.
Please vote "yes" on 6A and 7E.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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