In 1982, the Gallagher Amendment was needed to halt the climbing residential taxes that Coloradans were facing. Included in an equation that set residential taxes at 45% of what would be collected, the residential assessment rate, which is multiplied times home value, was 21%.
It worked. As the quantity and value of residential properties climbed, mostly along the Front Range, the assessment rate declined, and declined significantly. Today it is 7.15%. (The commercial rate, which includes natural gas and oil production facilities, has remained at 29%.)
We doubt whether the creators of Gallagher expected the growth in residential values – a statewide aggregate, not by region or county – as opposed to commercial amounts would force the rate to drop so far.
The result has been that the state has had to make up the increasing shortfall in local school funding – it is required by law to do that – and special districts, such as for fire protection, libraries and water systems, have had year after year of pinched budgets or have had to go to the voters for mill levy increases.
Gallagher has turned state and local funding upside down. The state has had to give up some funding for transportation and higher education, for example, while local entities, where citizen confidence is highest, have had to mount special mill levy increase requests. Fire departments should fight fires and libraries loan books, not mount repeated funding campaigns.
Amendment B on the coming ballot will halt the assessment rate at this year’s rate, 7.15%. With it, the stresses between state and local funding will not become any worse.
Colorado homeowners will continue to pay unusually low property taxes, but they will not go lower. And local services, those funded by mill levies, will at least see some stability in their budgets.
Amendment B has broad support from both political parties. It passed both the state House and Senate by two-thirds, an amount required to put a question pertaining to the Colorado Constitution on the ballot. Legislators know how difficult it is to manage the state’s revenues as school funding increasingly comes from the state and local governments clamor for assistance.
A state’s appeal is not all mountains and rivers. Its citizens need a certain level of proper school support and quality services.
Vote Yes on Amendment B for the levels of government Colorado can provide for its residents.