Teller County Commissioners Offer Pleasant Surprise For Local Taxpayers

Teller Property Owners Receive Nearly $3 Million in Temporary Tax Relief

Trevor Phipps

In a special and well-received surprise to start the New Year, the Teller County commissioners have decided to offer local property owners a nearly $3 million collective break in the form of tax relief from the scary financial realities many faced due to soaring assessment rates.

Only one major catch: This special offering may just serve as a temporary deal. Unless a long-term solution regarding the current property tax situation is finalized by state lawmakers and other leaders, the probability of high, explosive tax rates could return.

When property valuations were mailed out last year, the sticker shock felt by many Teller County residents made them worry they may have to relocate. The commissioners have sought for some time to find ways to provide relief to offset these explosive value hikes, which could be detrimental to local residents, especially for those living on fixed incomes.

During the inaugural meeting of 2024, the commissioners announced a larger tax break than they had originally anticipated. After promising citizens a total tax reduction of around $2.2 million, the commissioners said they were able to give back closer to $3 million.

According to Teller County Commissioner Erik Stone, the elected panel used SB 23-108, which was the only bipartisan measure on property taxes to come out of the 2023 legislative session, to provide a $2.7 million property tax reduction to Teller property owners. The commissioners played a key role in the drafting of this bill, spearheaded by state Senator Mark Baisley. The bill was approved by state lawmakers during last year’s session. It permits a temporary lowering of mill levies and a way to offer tax credits without any repercussions from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) law. Normally, when rates are cut, another vote by local residents is required to bring them back to status quo levels. This isn’t required under SB-23-108, which permits temporary relief.

A Mild Tax Increase

As a result of this legislation, Stone pointed out that Teller County property tax revenues will only increase by just over six percent which is lower than the rate of inflation. “The combined state and local property tax cuts will lower the county’s residential property tax assessments by an average of 25 percent,” Stone explained. “It’s the people’s money and it needs to go back to the people.”

The commissioners exceeded their promise of providing a $2.2 million tax cut by around a half a million dollars bringing the net total to around $2.7 million. Commissioner Bob Campbell, who was appointed as the 2024 board chairman, said that the tax cut represents, “promises made and promises kept.”

County Commissioner Dan Williams applauded the fact that the commissioners were proactive when they started to find a solution to skyrocketing property tax rates around two years ago. “Teller County has always punched over its weight class, and in this case, we worked hard and provided a solution for all of Colorado,” Williams stated.

Williams said that the commissioners saw a serious situation for residents in the county who are on fixed incomes. “We have veterans and an elderly population that would potentially have to make a decision (if we hadn’t done this) between food, medicine and losing their home,” Williams said.

According to Stone, the tax relief given this year is coming from two sources. “Two thirds to three quarters of the tax relief is coming from the county commissioners reducing and crediting back taxes through a mill levy credit,” Stone explained. “And the smaller amount a quarter to one third is coming from a couple of different pieces of legislation from the state legislature. One from the special session and another one from a couple of years ago that is still in effect. Around $1.1 million came from the two state statutes and the remaining $1.6 million of tax credit is coming from the county commissioners.”

He said that the tax relief will be coming in the form of a credit that will be on the 2024 property tax bills, which will be sent out in the next couple of weeks. But he said residents will only see a portion of the tax relief in the form of a credit on the bill. The other portion is handled through the assessor’s office through an increased valuation exemption.

New Appointments

In other county government news, Campbell was selected as the board chairman for 2024. Williams got the nod as vice-chairman, while Stone will serve as commissioner. In addition, former County Clerk and Recorder Krystal Brown was also officially named and sworn-in as the new treasurer. She fills the position previously held by Mark Czelusta, who stepped down last year.  Her appointment marks a recurring trend in county government circles, with elected leaders taking top seats in other agencies, following the expiration of their mandated terms. Current term limits restrict county office-holders to eight consecutive years in an elected position. But there are no restrictions involved in rotating to other positions or running again for a previous seat after a certain period.