Exclusives, Gallagher Amendment, Proposition HH, Taxes, Uncategorized

Chandler: Local governments must deliver property tax relief

Because Governor Polis has failed to deliver meaningful property tax relief, he’s pressuring local governments to do the job for him. Now, only local governments can bail taxpayers out of the property tax mess he helped create. And at least some are getting it done, no thanks to him.

Energy, housing, food, you name it—the cost of everything is going up. The large property tax increases that will be locked in for 2024 add insult to injury for Colorado homeowners. Mill levy reductions at the district level can provide the only meaningful relief.

Some local governments are already providing that relief without the need for prompting from the governor.

The Tallgrass Metro District, where I serve as president, paid for infrastructure in a community of 800 homes in southeast Aurora. Despite the very modest property tax relief passed by the Colorado legislature in a special session the week of Thanksgiving, homeowners in our community are facing approximately 40% property tax increases.

We currently have almost 11 million dollars in outstanding debt or $13,750 per homeowner. Last week the board nonetheless agreed to lower the district’s mills from 32.5 to 24.5.  We understand household budgets are tight, and as elected representatives of a local government, we serve our residents’ interests first.

Other local governments can and should follow suit. Here’s what that looks like.

Your property taxes are based on three things:

  • The actual value of your home as determined by the market, less any state exemptions;
  • The state assessment rate for your home; and
  • The number of mills levied by local taxing authorities.

We know that in Colorado the average home increased in value since the last assessment period. That is a good thing. We all want our investments to grow. This builds generational wealth. It may allow us to sell our property as we get older and live off proceeds in retirement.

We also know that the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment has now taken away the mechanism that helped keep a lid on the state government’s assessment rate. Senate Bill 23B-001 lowers the state assessment rate from 6.765% to 6.7% and exempts $55,000 from your home’s value for tax purposes. The changes apply to this year only. Proposition HH, which the voters rejected last month, would have used the same rate and exempted $50,000. The $5,000 difference in the exemption amount was just enough that Polis and company could say they provided more relief than HH would have.

Local taxing authorities can include your city, county, fire districts, library districts, and metro districts, to name a few. There are over 4,000 local governments in Colorado that levy and collect property taxes!

So, here we are. Three things determine your final property tax bill: your value, your assessment rate, and the mills of your local governments.

Who can “rescue you”? Your local government! Why? Because your state government has not done its job. The legislature has the power to lower the assessment rate. It doesn’t have the power to lower mill levies.

All the pressure has now been placed at the feet of local governments. Do you know the elected officers on your library district, your fire district, or your metro district? Have you ever attended a meeting of these governments? To lower your taxes, you now have to petition many more governments. You must engage each local government to lower the mill levy – one by one.

It is time to get involved. Your pocketbook has never been more at risk. You must voice your opinion to your local taxing authorities. Local taxing districts have been given until January 10, 2024, to certify their mill levy. Speak up now. The power to lower your property taxes now resides with your local taxing authorities and you voicing your concerns to your local government.

Kathleen Chandler runs the Local Government Project at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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