GOLDEN — It appears Golden is following a few other communities across Colorado in asking its voters to raise the cost of living through a pair of ballot measures: one to raise property taxes, and a second asking to ‘de-TABOR,’ or permanently keep and spend, excess revenues collected on an existing tax.
Complete Colorado previously reported on another pair of local tax measures– both a property and sales tax hike–on the ballot in Fort Collins.
The Golden ballot measures have become a prime topic of local city council races at a time when dramatic increases in valuations have led to an outcry to rein in already rapidly rising property taxes.
“It is something I am completely against,” said candidate Jacob Luria, who is in a four-way race for Golden City Council District 1 “I want to reduce and ultimately eliminate Golden’s portion of the property tax rates.”
Golden currently collects 12.34 mills on homes and businesses. Ballot issue 2K asks voters to raise that by an additional 6 mills. According to the ballot language the money would fund capital needs and operational costs of the Golden Fire Department, for such things as:
- Attract, train, and retain the necessary number of firefighters.
- Improve emergency response times.
- Ensure firefighters have appropriate and necessary life-saving medical equipment.
- Provide emergency vehicles and the necessary equipment to strengthen local EMS, fire, and wildfire response.
The measure would also bypass any future Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) revenue limits by asking voters to allow Golden to “collect, retain, and spend the proceeds of the revenue … without limitation” under TABOR.
Luria said he understands that not all property taxes in Golden could be eliminated, as they also represent taxation by multiple other entities such as the county, the school district, etc. But he wants to get the city back to a balanced budget and cut from the areas he believes can be reduced.
“I know the city is swaying this as ‘we need more money for firefighters,’ but over the years, I tend to become very skeptical and jaded when local governments say we can’t fund this unless that passes,” Luria said. “From the little bit that I’ve been able to dig into the budget, I think there are absolutely places where cuts can be made.”
Complete Colorado also obtained a copy of one of the local ballot issue notice (gray book) submissions opposing the increase. In that statement, the author said in part:
“Property values are skyrocketing. Those higher values mean higher property taxes. Property owners are getting gouged, and those costs get passed to tenants and consumers. Inflation costs are hurting property owners and renters. Meanwhile, the city is profiting because the higher the cost an item is, the more we pay in sales tax.”
Indeed, the Jefferson County Assessor in April announced that the median county-wide 2023 increase in property tax valuations was 36.5 percent. For Golden specifically that increase was just over 34 percent, meaning local property taxes are already headed for a sharp increase in 2024.
A second tax measure on the ballot is Issue 2L, which would de-TABOR a 6 percent lodging tax voted in by residents in 2021, allowing Golden to permanently retain and spend anything over the original $2 million per year officials estimated would be collected.
Luria is also against that measure, saying it only hurts Golden, which is small enough and close enough to other communities that people wishing to stay in the area will only look to places without a lodging tax. He said travelers would rather spend the extra money they are assessed for lodging on entertainment and dining out.
He said he also hasn’t seen anything about how the money is being spent, which could be on anything as the original ballot issue gave the city carte blanche for spending.
Luria said the two tax issues are exactly why he chose to run for city council.
“Growing up in New York and seeing how a very centralized, large state government affects everything, I’m just trying to stand up and change, and pull Colorado in the other direction,” he said. “When I moved here 10-12 years ago, I understood why people traveled west … seeking independence. And that is what I want to keep in Colorado.”
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