County Commissioners: Vote “No” on Polis-Endorsed Property Tax Relief Package
Trevor Phipps and Rick Langenberg
In 2023, the drastic rise in property valuations led to lawmakers scrambling to come up with solutions.
Senate Bills 23-108 and 23-303 both offered different ways to provide much needed tax relief to citizens.
SB 23-108, proposed by Republican State Senator Mark Baisley and approved by lawmakers last summer, provides tax relief in the form of temporary tax reductions.
SB 23-303, referred to the ballot by the state legislators, paved the way for Proposition HH that is aimed at lowering property taxes by reducing Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds. Due to the fact that this deals with TABOR monies, a majority vote by Colorado electors this November is required to move this package forward.
Although the election won’t occur until early Nov., it’s quite clear in the local area which tax relief effort is supported by local leaders, and at least which package they despise. The Teller County commissioners were the first panel of local elected leaders to bolt from the gates in publicly opposing Proposition HH, with an official resolution that has stern warnings. Similar action is expected by other governmental entities in the region, such as the city of Cripple Creek and possibly Green Mountain Falls.
As the ballots are slated to hit mailboxes soon, the Teller commissioners have urged citizens to definitely vote “no” on Proposition HH. During their most recent meeting, they passed a resolution against the package, heavily supported by key Democratic lawmakers, and voiced concerns over what the bill is trying to do.
SB 23-303 was pioneered by Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, and finalized by lawmakers last May. As a result, Proposition HH was placed on ballot to be decided by voters in November.
Growing Opposition by Local Elected Leaders
But, the county commissioners don’t like the way the bill intends to provide tax relief. They have maintained that Proposition HH is not needed after the passage of SB 23-108.
They argue that SB 23-108 handles the issue of rising property taxes at a local level. With the passage of the bill last spring, local leaders can now temporarily lower tax rates to offset rising valuations.
If Proposition HH passes, the limit the state government can take with taxes via the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) increases by one percent annually and perpetually. According to the commissioners, this means that the state government can keep reducing TABOR refunds by one percent each year forever or until the refunds are completely gone.
“The state government will now continue to grow forever, which it has not done since TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) was passed,” BOCC Chairman Erik Stone explained at a recent meeting. “In our budget, we are proposing tax relief to the point where just the property tax relief that our property owners will receive from the county will exceed the amount of property tax relief given if Prop. HH is passed. That is not including the individual taxing entities and municipalities that may be offering additional tax relief as well.”
The resolution passed by the county commissioners states that the ballot measure does not specify the amount of property taxes that will be reduced. It also states that it does not specify the amount of backfill that will be given to counties, cities, or special districts.
In addition, the resolution goes on to say that by hiding the previously failed measure behind a “vaguely worded promise” of a decrease in property tax reductions, it is misleading and a potential violation of the state constitution. It also states that SB 23-03, which placed, Prop. HH on the ballot likely violates the “single subject” requirement in the State Constitution by addressing multiple subjects like property tax relief, school funding and housing development grants.
The resolution says that the proposition could be overturned by courts if it is passed. The commissioners also said that the language of the ballot measure is not “clear and concise.”
“Proposition HH will mandate reductions in local property taxes for at least 10 years, resulting in billions of dollars of lost revenue for local governments without any reduction in service obligations,” the resolution states.
Overall, the commissioners said that the passage of Prop. HH will “dramatically reduce” TABOR refunds to Teller County citizens. “Proposition HH indicates that local governments will be reimbursed from state funds for lost property tax revenue, but those reimbursements are a small percentage of the billions of dollars more the state will retain, and most special districts will be ineligible for reimbursements early in the 10-year period of Proposition HH,” the resolution reports.
The county commissioners aren’t alone in voicing opposition to Proposition HH. In town meetings last week, leaders from Cripple Creek and Green Mountain Falls indicated they plan to jump on board in joining the anti-Proposition HH bandwagon. The Cripple Creek City Council plans to adopt a formal resolution opposing this particular tax relief package, heavily endorsed by the governor, at its next meeting, according to Finance Director Paul Harris.
And in Green Mountain Falls, officials say Prop. HH could create negative financial impacts for their town budget. If approved, Town Manager Becky Frank stated that residents can expect some hefty fiscal cuts for GMF.
Other government leaders in the area have echoed similar sentiments.
Only one problem with the growing tide of local opposition to Proposition HH. It may clash with public opinion at the state level, as current polls indicate that Prop HH is being approved now by about 55 percent of the voters.