Guest opinion: CMC should ask voters to raise their taxes – every time
First of all, I am a big fan of Colorado Mountain College. The positive impacts on our county could take up this entire article. CMC is a treasure that we all benefit from – directly and indirectly.
We are getting what we pay for — CMC and all of these benefits.
The best thing about local property tax is that the taxes you pay fund the local governments that serve you.
However, in CMC’s tax question, 4B, the college is asking to be able to raise our taxes, without a vote of the people, whenever the residential assessment rate drops according the Colorado Constitution (the Gallagher Amendment).
CMC’s mill levy (tax rate) is 3.997 and has been for many years. With that mill levy, CMC has collected enough property tax to do all of the great things we love. Without raising or lowering the tax rate of 3.997 mills, CMC has provided us with many wonderful campuses, four-year degree programs, awesome instructors, low tuition, etc.
If 4B passes, the CMC mill levy will automatically rise, and it will most likely stay that way forever. Trustees could always lower it when property values rise, but CMC is “de-bruced” so they probably will not.
Ballot Issue 4B is asking us to institute a permanent workaround to the Gallagher Amendment. CMC is but one local government on our tax bill, and if this passes, we will surely see the question come from them all.
It’s not easy funding a government.
I understand TABOR and Gallagher have made it difficult for local governments to raise revenue. TABOR made it difficult on purpose. Some governments in Colorado are suffering greatly because of the ratcheting down TABOR mandated. To a lesser extent, the lowering of the assessment rate due to Gallagher has made funding a government harder as well.
Too bad we can’t start over from the beginning of those amendments, because temporary mill levy credits, Amendment 23, and de-brucing have provided effective tools for local governments to maintain their mill levy rates. However, these tools are available and widely used now.
Funding local government within the unique constraints of Colorado’s Constitution may be difficult, but not impossible. Voters have approved increases all through Garfield County very recently. And we are being asked again by the county and Grand River Hospital. They are making their case, and we get to vote.
Out of necessity comes a huge opportunity.
The necessity is this: Local governments must articulate their needs to the voters, show them value, and ask to increase taxes.
The opportunity is this: When property values increase, lower taxes once in awhile, and make a huge deal out of it, because we will surely remember next time you need to raise them.
An open and honest dialogue between government and voters is in the best interest of us all. And if a government wants to raise taxes, it should have to ask us – every time.
Jim Yellico is the Garfield County assessor.
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