Here comes Douglas County government asking for more taxpayer money on November 8th. This time Douglas County wants to extend the Open Space Sales Tax for 15 more years to raise at least $300 million with Issue 1A. Existing law requires the Open Space Sales Tax to sunset in January 2024, so this 15-year extension of the tax is really a tax increase. Notice local government never lets these taxes actually sunset, and always want an extension. Douglas County just asked voters to extend the Justice Center Sales tax for another 15 years in 2019.
Since the Open Space Sales Tax was approved in 1994, Douglas County’s population has increased from 108,000 to 373,500 in 2021 or 3.5X. However, in that same time frame, Open Space Sales Tax collected has grown from $2.5 million in 1995 to $16.9 million in 2021 which is an increase of 6.7X. And Douglas County is still not satisfied and still wants more money.
Now is a bad time to raise and extend County sales taxes because of higher retail grocery prices, higher gasoline prices, expected economic recession, and inflation at a multi-decade high. Also in 2023, Douglas County Government will appraise homes and real estate values upward by 30% to 50%, which means property taxes will increase 30% to 50%. Voters should not make the tax burden even worse by extending this sale tax.
Other reasons to oppose the Douglas County Open Space Sales Tax Extension:
- A 15-year extension is too long – the sale tax extension is for another 15 years, which is too long and the County’s needs and priorities will change over the next 15 years.
- Douglas County already has lots of open space – Douglas County already has 63,000 acres of open space land which is 16% of the total acreage in Douglas County (394,000 acres) excluding the Pike National Forest.
- Use more income tax techniques to get land donations – Local landowners can donate land to the County for open space and get big tax deductions for the income tax and estate tax using land trusts, conservation trusts, conservation easements, which are smart, sophisticated and creative gifting techniques for land donations. There are alternatives to just raising taxes.
- Cities and towns in Douglas County already have taxes dedicated to parks and open space – The County will share 20% of this tax with towns and cities but most towns and cities already have their own budgets for parks and open space (Town of Parker has a 0.5% sales tax dedicated to Parks and Recreation).
- The government pays no property tax on the open space land – Open space is taken off the tax rolls which means that all of us will be asked to pay higher taxes to make up for this shortfall. So, it becomes a double tax.
- Sales Taxes are regressive – Sales taxes are regressive taxes which means they hurt those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder the most. Sales taxes are additional taxes on basic necessities that people need such as toilet paper and diapers.
- More and higher taxes should be the last solution – The County should be more tight-fisted with its spending, like most families and small businesses must be tight-fisted with their money.
Douglas County will not stop asking for more money unless the voters put a stop to it. Vote NO on Issue 1A.
George Allen is a CPA and resident of Douglas County.
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