Colorado Mountain College wins tax revenue proposal

Western Colorado voters approved Colorado Mountain College’s bid to adjust property tax rates during lean budget years in a ballot initiative Tuesday.

Early results for the college’s district – which includes Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Lake, Routt and Summit counties – showed the measure winning with more than 70 percent support.

Ballot Question 7D was not a property tax, but a way for the college to make up for budget shortfalls caused when the state reduces property tax assessment rates. The CMC board of directors had asked for the ability to change the mill levy rates in order to restore tax revenue that may be lost when the assessment rate changes in the future.

“We are honored that voters in our communities took the time to learn about how a quirk in the state constitution put local services in rural areas at risk and have entrusted the college with the ability to maintain revenues that otherwise would have been lost,” the board of trustees said in a statement Tuesday.

“We humbly accept this responsibility and are committed to providing the essential education and training that our students, employers and communities need to meet the demands of our regional economy.”

The residential mill levy is typically adjusted down, due the Gallagher Amendment to the state constitution, which requires a certain percentage of revenue to come from businesses compared to residential property taxes. That system has caused CMC to lose revenue, according to the board.

CMC proposed a similar change to offset losses from the Gallagher Amendment during the 2017 election, but that measure was defeated with around 45 percent report.

As part of the ballot language, CMC promised to maintain a transparent accounting of how it uses its funds and its justification for increasing a mill levy over the assessment rate.

“As has always been true, we will continue to publicly and transparently report the actions of the CMC Board of Trustees, when and if they ever exercise the provisions of 7D,” the statement said.

In 2017, CMC changed employee benefits and implemented reductions in operations, along with raising tuition, to accommodate the drop in revenue. If the assessment rate drops in 2019 — a certainty unless the legislature can devise a way to change Gallagher — the college would have faced an additional reduction for $3.8 million without the passage of 7D, according to the trustees.

Critics of the measure said that in future years, if CMC raises the mill levy rate as the assessment rate drops, it would be, in effect a tax not subject to community vote.

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