Basalt surveying residents on property tax snafu, provides estimator on possible refunds
The Aspen Times
Basalt town government will inform owners of residential and commercial property this week how much of a refund they could receive because of a possible tax levy violation.
The town mailed a survey to registered voters Tuesday and included a tool to estimate potential refunds.
Residential homeowners would get a refund of $99 per $100,000 in actual home value, according to the town’s website. The average home value in Basalt is $682,561, so that would produce a potential refund of $676.
Commercial property owners could be eligible for a refund of $399 per $100,000 of value. So a commercial property valued at $1 million would be in line for a refund of $3,990.
There are a lot of “ifs” and “buts” involved in the issue, said Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. For starters, Basalt still hasn’t definitively determined if it violated the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
The current administration realized late last year while working on the 2019 budget that the town’s general mill levy rate for property tax has been raised 10 times since 2005 without voter approval. That may have violated the TABOR amendment to the state constitution, which limits government revenue increases and prohibits new taxes without voter approval. TABOR was enacted in 1992. Basalt voters approved a local measure in 1994 that eases the restrictions of TABOR. The town has hired outside experts on the tax measure to help determine if any violations were committed.
If it is determined that a violation occurred, the town may be liable for returning tax revenue for the four most recent years. TABOR has a statute of limitations built in.
The town is contemplating a “conservative” approach and asking voters in November to let it keep tax revenues that were potentially overcharged.
To help chart its course, the town mailed a survey to residents on Tuesday. It’s also available at a portion of the town’s website devoted to the mill levy issue at basalt.net.
“The Town is asking Basalt residents to look for the survey in their mailboxes and to be sure to complete it by March 29,” said a news statement from the town. “For households with multiple residents, please use the online version so that all opinions are heard. However, please only fill it out once, so Council has consistent community input throughout this process.”
The survey results will be discussed at a council meeting in April.
“Town Council and staff will use the information gathered — along with other public input — to decide whether to place one or more questions on the November 2019 ballot,” the town’s statement said.
The first question on the survey asks residents what level of information they previously had about the issue. The second question asks if responders think the town of Basalt is “on the right track or heading in the wrong direction.” It provides an open opportunity in question three to explain their decision.
Question four asks if the mill levy should be kept at the current rate to maintain services or if a refund should be granted or the mill levy dropped.
Question five asks if the town provides refunds or drops the mill levy, what services should be dropped.
Questions six and seven get to the heart of the matter. One asks voters if they would favor or oppose allowing the town to maintain its mill levy. The other asks if they favor or oppose letting Basalt retain property tax revenues from previous years instead of providing a refund.
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