Chuck Baker: Tax won’t go away |

Chuck Baker: Tax won’t go away

I would encourage all taxpayers to vote “No” on Referendum 1A (county tax increase purportedly for county roads).

– If the ballot issue is not approved, the county is held to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) limitation, and Routt County taxpayers will be assessed taxes at a mill levy of 9.229. If the ballot issue is approved, your taxes will be assessed at a mill levy of 12.266. The mill levy sought to be imposed is approximately 25 percent higher, and your tax burden will be increased by 25 percent immediately if the ballot is issue is approved.

– The county projections are based upon a static view of our economy. We are in a construction boom that the Rocky Mountain News estimates at $1 billion or more (Oct. 6, 2007). Market values have increased dramatically, with the Steamboat Pilot & Today reporting a 35 percent countywide assessment increase (May 10, 2007). The financial impact of the increased mill levy would be applied to both new construction as well as market-value appreciation. Every two years, the assessor revalues the taxpayer’s property and the taxpayers are already at the midpoint of the next evaluation. Growth recently has exceeded 30 percent biannually with no letup on the horizon. If the ballot issue is approved, the assessed value of appreciation on your property will be taxed at 12.266 mills, resulting in substantial tax increases.

– The monies collected in 2008 for the tax year 2007 are project to be $3.3. million, of which $2.6 million will go into the capital fund and $700,000 will go into the general fund. The amount going into the capital fund is capped at $2.6 million. Of the $2.6 million for roads, $818,000 will be returned to the city of Steamboat Springs. Since 75 percent of Routt County property taxes are paid by Steamboat Springs property owners, they only get a 33 cent return on every $1 of taxes.

– Increased tax monies resulting from appreciation and new construction would go into the general fund and not require voter approval of its amount or use. Assuming biannual growth at the 30 percent rate for the four-year period from 2006 to 2010, the amount of the total tax, as well as the amount going in the general fund, is substantially greater than articulated by tax proponents. In 2009 and 2010, that tax would be $4.3 million, with $1.7 million going into the general fund. In 2011 and 2012, the tax total would be $5.6 million, of which $3 million would go in the general fund. For the six-year period, the total tax would be $26 million, of which almost $11 million would go into the general fund.

– After the first six years, the monies going into the capital fund would not be subject to voter approval as to purpose or use. Obviously, monies going into the general fund are discretionary spending at the will of the county commissioners. With the tax base increasing over the long range, the county practicably should never again need voter approval for a project or tax increase.

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The increase in the mill levy and the tax resulting there from has no sunset and can be perpetually imposed without voter approval. The process of biannual reassessment of your property as it appreciates will go on and on and your taxes will go up and up, but never away.

Chuck Baker

Steamboat Springs