A recent survey found that one in five Coloradans are worried about losing their homes and at least one in six are already struggling to pay for necessities like food. With this in mind, you would think politicians at the local level would understand how out of touch asking for another tax increase on homeowners would be, but for the progressive wing of the Broomfield City Council, higher property taxes is part of their agenda for the November election with Ballot Question 2B. I hope my fellow Broomfield voters will join me in saying no.
Mayor Pro-Tem Guyleen Castriotta, along with Councilmember Heidi Henkel, want voters to believe that Broomfield faces a crisis of funding “stabilization,” and as a result a majority of the City Council wants voters to “de-Gallagher” property taxes in Broomfield. This would give City Council the authority to play with the residential assessment rate without asking again.
Broomfield, however, has fared extremely well the past 6 months. While the nearby City and County of Denver is seeing a $220 million budget shortfall for the end of this year, the City and County of Broomfield has a solid property tax base and is projected to end 2020 with a positive balance of $6.2 million.
So, it makes little sense that in a time when many Broomfield families are forced to tighten their belts, the tax-hungry members of City Council have decided to ask voters for at least $4 to $5 million in additional property taxes.
Just as many advocates of the state-wide Amendment B–which would repeal the Gallagher Amendment from the state Constitution–want to argue that their measure doesn’t really increase taxes, advocates of the Broomfield tax hike try to argue that Question 2B is about keeping property taxes the same. It’s important to understand how the final number on your property tax bill is calculated to understand the truth about this issue. Every two years your county assessor completes an assessment of what they believe is the taxable value of your property. This amount is then calculated by the assessment rate (currently 7.15% for homeowners) and then that amount is what you multiply your total mill levy by.
So here’s what Broomfield residents are being asked: if the residential assessment rate was to be lowered as required by the state Constitution, then may City Council go ahead and raise the local assessment rate without a vote of the people. That is a tax increase. Advocates of this try to enter into a (often confusing) discussion of the complexities of the Gallagher Amendment. But that’s where it is important to ask: why then is City Council even bothering to go through the expense and effort of putting 2B on the ballot?
It’s very clear: 2B is about giving politicians free access to their residents’ wallets. While advocates of the tax increase try to make the discussion about “K-12 education, police and fire services” these institutions all “have their own mill levy and therefore a way to increase taxes without playing with people’s property taxes” as Councilmember Kimberly Groom pointed out.
This ballot question is not about “stabilization” or even really about Gallagher. It’s about one thing, increasing taxes on already burdened and stressed out homeowners and renters.
But that isn’t all. By putting this issue on the ballot the tax-hungry members of Broomfield City Council are even willing to risk a $2 million dollar increase on business property taxes. This is because if Amendment B doesn’t pass at the state level but Broomfield Question 2B does pass, it can give Council the ability to raise property taxes on commercial properties. The fact they would be willing to do this even as businesses in Broomfield file for bankruptcy and close down, shows how out of touch they are with what is happening in the real world.
I wish I could say that this curse of out-of-touch politicians trying to raise property taxes is something that only Broomfield residents have to deal with, but sadly, the government greed virus is already starting to spread. Vail, Glenwood Springs, and Summit County are also asking voters to grant them the freedom to raise property taxes without asking again.
If Broomfield or other cities and counties this year can convince the voters to de-Gallagher you can bet that the politicians where you live will start the conversation about doing the same thing where you live.
Fortunately, I know of many residents in Broomfield who are committed to educating voters on why they should vote no on 2B. Broomfield residents can’t afford to open up our wallets and give greedy politicians the ability to pick and choose how much more we should pay in property taxes. We’ve been forced to sacrifice our civil liberties, our businesses, our incomes and our way of life. We shouldn’t be forced to give up any more of our hard earned money.
Karl Honegger is a Broomfield resident and a member of the Emerging Leaders Advisory Council with the Steamboat Institute.