Steamboat, Oak Creek fire mill levy adjustment authority measures pass

A Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue engine returns to the Mountain Fire Station after tending to a motor vehicle crash in 2013. (File photo by Scott Franz)

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7. 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Measures intended to reduce the impact of the Gallagher Amendment on Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs Area fire protection districts and Colorado Mountain College passed in Routt County.

A similar measure failed in West Routt and Yampa fire protection districts.


Oak Creek: 669 votes for, 343 against
Steamboat Springs: 1,687 for, 868 against
West Routt: 523 for, 599 against
Yampa: 253 for, 261 against

CMC’s measure passed in Routt County and the other five counties with CMC campuses. A similar 2017 measure passed in Routt and Pitkin counties but failed in Garfield, Lake, Eagle and Summit counties.

These ballot measures intended to mitigate the financial impact of the Gallagher Amendment and allow these organizations to continue to provide services at their current levels.

Gallagher, passed by voters in 1982, is an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that set a ratio for property taxes paid statewide. It mandates that commercial property owners pay 55 percent of property taxes in the state and residential property owners pay 45 percent.

The amendment set a fixed assessment rate of 29 percent for commercial property, while the residential property tax rate is regularly adjusted to maintain the 45 to 55 ratio. The Gallagher Amendment intended to combat rising residential property taxes, but it had unintended consequences.

As the state’s population has grown, increasing residential property values have outpaced growth in commercial property values. The rate that individual residential property owners pay has shrunk. As more people pay into that 45 percent of total property taxes, the percentage individual residential property owners pay has fallen, too.

When Gallagher was passed, residential properties were assessed at a rate of 30 percent. Today, that rate is 7.2 percent.

This rate is expected to decrease again to 6.85 percent when the rate is re-evaluated next year, according to the Colorado Legislature’s Legislative Council Staff. Locally, this has reduced revenue for special districts whose budgets rely on property tax revenue.

The measures will allow the districts to essentially freeze their residential assessment rate at the current 7.2 percent rate should the residential assessment rate continue to fall.

Should the Gallagher Amendment ever increase the residential assessment rate, the districts would be required to reduce their mill levies.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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