Property Tax Relief In the Works

A businessman puts two puzzles with the words Tax and Relief. The concept of reducing the debt burden on business and local production to increase the competitiveness of their products. Economy

State Bill Approved to Permit Local Governments to Lower Mill Levies

Trevor Phipps

Residents in Teller County and across Colorado  have faced “sticker shock” after seeing their property valuations take a giant climb in 2023.

Many property owners claim that the county’s valuations are actually higher than what a person could sell their home for. They also are accusing  the government of over-reach with the higher projected taxes.

In the last few weeks, a huge number of residents have scrambled to protest their valuations while county officials have been promising that relief is on its way.

 But relief could be on the way, in the form of legislative assistance.

Last week, the county commissioners heard good news from the state capitol after Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 23-108.  Another bill has been endorsed the governor, sponsored by Democratic leaders, but that one would require a state vote. Moreover, it has encountered opposition by many county leaders.

The Senate Bill 23-108 was sponsored by State Senator Mark Baisley as an attempt to give relief to property owners across Colorado after seeing the rise in property taxes. The bill would essentially allow counties to temporarily lower the property tax rates in order to give relief to property owners when the valuations sky rocket due to market activity.

During the time the bill was being debated, it was heavily endorsed by all of the Teller County commissioners. The local officials have said that after the bill’s passage, they would work to lower the property tax rates so that Teller residents didn’t receive as big of a hit to their pocket books.

At the county commissioners meeting last week, Commission Chairman Erik Stone applauded the passage of the bill into law. He said that he was pleased the governor signed the bill that passed through both the State House and Senate with unanimous votes.

Now that the bill has been signed, counties will have the authority to lower mill levy rates and reduce property taxes for a year. The bill will go into effect 90 days after the final adjournment of the legislative session.

Under this measure, government entities can temporarily lower the mill levy without facing the normal restrictions under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). With TABOR, once a government entity lowers its tax rate, it can’t adjust it to the previous status quo levy without a vote of the people.  Baisley’s legislation, though, gives governments a reprieve from this action.

“I cannot say enough how important this bill is to the people of Teller County,” Stone said at last week’s meeting. “We all know what has happened to valuations and the potential that that could do to property taxes.”

Stone said that the passage of SB 23-108 will give the county all of the authority they need to appease tax hikes since property taxes are collected and distributed on a local level. “What this means really for us here in Teller County is that all of the other property tax proposals that are out there whether they are ones that appear on your ballot or are proposed in future legislative sessions are unnecessary,” Stone explained. “Our case we made to the state government is that we can handle this if you clarify our authority to do so.”

Stone said now that the bill has passed, the county commissioners plan to invite all of the taxing authorities within Teller County to come to a work session later this summer. During the work session, the commissioners plan to inform the tax authorities like the fire departments, schools and library districts what they plan to do in terms of temporary property tax reductions.

Stone said the commissioners also plan to discuss with the taxing authorities what the potential outcomes could be. They plan to talk about what future revenue predictions could be depending on how people vote this fall.

“The taxing authorities will be able to go talk to their residents and hopefully together as a community we can put together an offer for property tax relief that our residents have been asking for,” Stone said.

Democratic-sponsored Bill Also Offers Relief; But Requires Voter-Approval This November

The signing of the bill marks the second property tax relief measure passed during this year’s state legislative session. Last May, Polis signed Senate Bill 303 into law that is another way to provide tax relief to property owners.

However, SB 303 also needs the voters to pass the legislation due to the restrictions of the TABOR law. This November, Proposition HH will be on the ballot for voters to decide on another issue related to property tax relief.

But, this measure takes a different approach that has been spoken against by many including the Teller County commissioners. If Prop. HH gets passed, property owners could see tax relief and property taxes will get capped.

Stone and others though are against the proposed ballot measure because it will take portions of citizens’ TABOR refund dollars to make up for what local taxing authorities will not get from property taxes. Stone said that since SB 23-108 got passed, more relief in exchange for TABOR refunds is not needed.

Others have said that the proposition would mean that people who don’t own property would be paying unfairly for tax relief through their TABOR refunds.

Stone has said in the past that if Proposition HH passes, the county will use SB 108 to give the money back to the citizens that the state gives to local taxing authorities from the reduction in TABOR refunds. He has also said that most counties have not asked to be reimbursed for a reduction in property taxes by reducing TABOR refunds.

Stone isn’t alone in his opposition to this measure and strong support for the Baisley relief measure.

At their regular meeting, Green Mountain Falls Mayor Todd Dixon echoed similar sentiments. “I am not a fan of (Proposition ) HH,” said Dixon. “It is just a way for the state to keep the money.”

Other elected leaders in the region are expected to outline similar views.