Yellico column: Property tax voting advice from the assessor
Voters in Garfield County have a tedious ballot to sort through this year. Referencing my blue book and coloring in the squares took me back to finals week at school — or maybe even to my third-grade desk for the Iowa Basics.
The 2018 ballot is a long two pages, packed with the standard races for elected office, several proposed amendments to the constitution, several statutory changes, and of course local property tax questions.
In the area of these property tax questions, I feel I can offer some tips to help you cast a confident vote.
This amendment would result in property owners seeing two assessed values on their tax bill — one for school districts, and one for every other local government. As each year progresses these values will grow further apart, and I predict local governments will suffer as their residential assessment rate drops more than normal because of the school district’s fixed rate.
Also, every Colorado corporation — from huge construction companies to your local flower shop — will see a nearly 30 percent income tax increase. Incomes over $150,000 will be taxed more, and as you earn more money your income tax rate will increase.
RFTA tax (Ballot Issue 7A)
This is a brand new tax. RFTA’s tax question is straight forward, and in my opinion the only thing to take note of is that this is the first time they have looked to property tax as a funding source. In Colorado, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires government to ask taxpayers to approve any new tax.
CMC tax (Ballot Issue 7D)
CMC is asking for the ability to increase the tax rate anytime their revenue declines because of a reduction in the residential assessment rate. In contrast to the other property tax questions on this year’s ballot where the governments are asking for a specific increased tax rate, CMC has tied the tax increase to revenue.
This means that the tax rate will increase without a vote but only enough to reach the previous year’s revenue.
The CMC mill levy will “ratchet up” in the future as a tax increase in low-revenue years, and will be carried forward to all revenue years in the future (unless the board chooses to reduce taxes).
Library District (Ballot Issue 6A)
The Library District is not asking to increase property taxes — in fact their question has nothing to do with property taxes. In regard to the sales taxes they receive, this question is asking to “de-Bruce,” which means that when the taxes they collect are more than the limits written into TABOR, they can keep those funds.
Most local governments across Colorado have de-Bruced, and in fact Garfield County voters have already approved the Library’s de-Brucing measure for property taxes.
Schools, Fire Districts/Departments
These questions, to me, are “standard” property tax questions. Local governments that have determined they need additional revenue and are asking the taxpayers they serve to help.
A long ballot can tempt us all to select the elected officials that dominate the campaign season, and simply vote “no” to everything else without even reading. These local governments deserve your attention when voting. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort, and in some cases a considerable amount of money, to run a tax measure on the ballot.
The elected men and women who sit on local government boards are doing their best to provide you with services — it is up to you to research what they are asking for, and determine if you are willing to pay more taxes to make it happen.
If you have any questions about why you should vote to increase your own taxes, I suggest contacting a board member of that local government/taxing district and asking them. They have been elected to represent you, and owe you an honest “pro vs. con” explanation.
Jim Yellico is Garfield County Assessor, and is running unopposed for reelection in the Nov. 6 election.