Jefferson County is one of more than a dozen counties in Colorado that still enjoys the protections of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). This constitutional amendment requires voter approval for tax increases and debt. It also modestly limits how fast government can grow. The formula for automatic tax increases is the prior year’s budget plus adjustment for inflation and local growth.
Jefferson County government is presently allowed to grow 3.9% annually under the formula as described in a Board of County Commissioners agenda for July 19 (page 171). That’s a reasonable amount for government growth – compare it to your household. Have you gotten nearly a 4% increase in your income?
Yet, the county commissioners have spent the last few years claiming they have insufficient revenue to maintain operations. Now they blame the revenue problem on the pandemic, yet the county received close to a couple hundred million in COVID relief money.
That pile of federal money still didn’t calm down the county commissioners’ quest to get rid of our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Earlier this year, the county held a ‘listening’ tour to gauge interest on another presenting yet another ballot issue to raise tax revenue though voters firmly said no to the last request just a couple years ago.
Driving the opposition to the ballot issue was the fact that allowing the county to keep our TABOR rebates is a tax increase. Rebates are traditionally issued as a property tax refund on the bill sent to taxpayers. During the last cycle, the county leaders in a quiet staff meeting made a decision to “teach” taxpayers a lesson, spending a couple hundred thousand dollars on sending physical checks to each individual property owner instead of just crediting it on the property tax bill. That wasteful tactic came as no surprise as one county commissioners is the lead named plaintiff to overturn our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
As property values grow, driving up mortgage and rental costs, the property taxes do play heavily into the cost of living. If we allow Jefferson County to de-TABOR from the revenue limit, we no longer get that rebate or overcollection back. That means your cost of living will increase.
With less than 24-hour notice, Jeffco posted on their Facebook page that they’ll have a hearing on Tuesday, July 19 at 8 AM to potentially refer three measures to the November ballot The agenda packet did include these measures but the average citizen isn’t reading a weekly government packet so it’s hard to expect there will be much testimony.
Issue 1A – Exempt all non-property tax revenue from the TABOR revenue limits. This means we won’t get any of that surplus back and gives the county a blank check. The county cannot answer at this time how much the tax hike will generate.
Issue 1B – Authorize manufacturing facilities as well as sales of marijuana and exempt all such revenues from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
Issue 1C – Impose up to a 6% sales tax on marijuana and exempt revenues from TABOR limits.
The county is allowed sufficient growth under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. As usual, government doesn’t like limits. The county can put forward the ballot issues but there’s no need to exempt the revenues from TABOR caps. We owe it to future generations to keep the reasonable limits in place and see if the county can manage the money it already collects properly before we give them a blank check.
When you see the phrase, “notwithstanding the limitations of Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law,” that means your TABOR rebates are in danger and that’s all the reason needed to say no.
Natalie Menten is a long time political activist from Lakewood, and a former elected director at the Regional Transportation District (RTD)
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