Vail Daily column: Closing the loop with property taxes
In last November’s election there were two proposals to raise school property taxes — Issue 3A (programs and salaries) and Issue 3B (buildings and security). After an unprecedented amount of pledged support woven into newspaper and other media, both critically important issues passed — 61 percent for 3A and 53 percent for 3B. It’s important post-election to “close the loop”:
• First, thanks from the top: The Eagle County School superintendent, in the March 15 Vail Daily, has expressed a sincere thank you to voters for passing the tax increases, coupled with early indications of funds use.
• Second, now the property taxes have to be paid: The property tax statements have come out showing totals, but no real details. Simply put, Issues 3A and 3B taxes increased school taxes by nearly 25 percent. This caused individual total property tax bills, for both residential and commercial, to be raised 9-12 percent — depending on where the property is located.
Where is it shown on my statement?
• Skip this section if you are not interested in details — perhaps not the ones who pay the taxes.
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• Property tax statements show, in a roundabout way, the tax monies that multiple taxing authorities get. It’s shown as “mill levies,” assessor-talk for an intermediate number that eventually gets you to dollars of taxes. The school district’s new and increased mill levy (listed as RE50J School Dist.) is 25.209 mills, noting for comparison the separate and distinct Eagle County Government’s mill levy is 8.499 mills.
• Buried in the total school district’s increased mill levy of 25.209 mills are the costs, in mill levies, for 3A and 3B. This year it’s 4.920 mills — slightly below the predicted 5.035 mills, but will average out to that over time. The school district dug out this information, noting it was not broken out in their normal budget summary that is available to the public.
• You can calculate your own dollar cost from 3A and 3B. Simply multiply “assessed valuation” (another assessor-talk number) by 4.920 mils, then move the decimal three places to the left of the result.
What might be expected going forward?
Following the referenced Vail Daily article, with the from-the-top “thank you,” perhaps it’s time to go beyond singular voices, views, information sources and forums:
• Highlighting proceedings of the promised Citizen Oversight Committee.
• Newspaper reporting — beyond administrative staff to teachers, parents, students and those who provided testimonials before the vote.
• An ongoing 3A and 3B taxes-at-work section in the district’s web site.
• Breaking out 3A and 3B costs in annual property tax statements.
• Initiate publicized, periodic open Q-and-A gatherings in a mid-county location — going beyond regular school board meetings where attendance is not always that great.
What’s the right thing to do?
This letter has attempted to present information that is not always readily available, coupled with opinions. Regardless of how one voted, it’s time we all pull together to support and be proud of our students, teachers and supporting staff, coupled with top-notch facilities. This goal can be aided by seeing promises leading up to the election regarding tax increase issues 3A and 3B, reflected in post-election delivery of the promises, over the coming months and years. This is the right thing to do.
Paul Rondeau lives in Vail.