Dec 31

EDITORIAL: Negative Impacts, Part Three

Read Part One

If a person wants to build a single-family home within the Pagosa Springs town limits, he or she must pay $3,342 in Town “impact fees.” That money is purportedly earmarked for the “impacts” that the new residents — who will occupy this new house — will have on roads, recreation facilities, public buildings, parks, trails, emergency services and schools.  (Assuming that the people who will occupy this new house haven’t already lived in Pagosa for maybe 25 years.)

The justification typically offered for such fees, is: “growth must pay for growth.”

We are working, here, under the assumption that there is a difference between a “tax” and a “fee.” The Colorado Constitution specifically requires voter approval for tax increases, and for the creation of a new tax — but no such voter approval is required for fee increases, or for the creation of a new fee.

Obviously, the difference is of some significance, here in Colorado.

A recent Colorado lawsuit can help us understand how one particular panel of judges defined the difference between a “tax” and a “fee.”

In 2009, during a particularly difficult period in the financial life of the Colorado state government, the state legislature created a new government agency called the Colorado Bridge Enterprise (CBE). The agency began charging a new “fee” as part of your vehicle registration fee; the money was (purportedly) to be used for repairing state-maintained bridges. The state did not seek voter approval for the new surcharge.

In 2012, the TABOR Foundation filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the “fee” was in fact a “tax” — and was thus prohibited by the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) unless approved by the state’s voters. During the deliberations, the Colorado Court of Appeals disagreed with one of the TABOR Foundation’s arguments: that the surcharge is a “tax” because it is collected without regard to any services used by the vehicles for which the charge is imposed.

The court laid out three factors that it weighed in determining whether a surcharge is a tax or a fee:

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Dec 14

Suthers gets no push back on TABOR measure

Suthers gets no push back on TABOR measure

POSTED BY ON TUE, DEC 13, 2016 AT 1:51 PM

Camp Creek erosion is one reason the city needs money for drainage projects. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS

  • COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Camp Creek erosion is one reason the city needs money for drainage projects.

It’s looking like a “go” for an April 4 city election ballot measure seeking voter approval to lift the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights revenue cap for 2016 and 2017 to fund stormwater projects.

Mayor John Suthers asked City Council today to place the measure on the ballot, noting the 2016 figure could be $7 million or more. If refunded, which typically is achieved through utility bills, the refund would total about $36 per household, Suthers said.

As previously reported by the Independent, Suthers wants to use the excess revenue to beef up the city’s work on drainage control, given a Nov. 9 lawsuit against the city filed by the federal government, which noted longstanding violations of the Clean Water Act.

City Council will vote in late January on referring such a measure to voters, at which time Suthers promised to provide a more precise revenue figure. He received no push back at today’s meeting.

In other business, Councilor Bill Murray asked colleagues to place a measure on the ballot that would open the door for the city to partner with companies to provide broadband internet service. That measure is to be voted on later today.

http://www.csindy.com/IndyBlog/archives/2016/12/13/suthers-gets-no-push-back-on-tabor-measure
Dec 08

Ballot measure would ask to keep TABOR excess for stormwater

Ballot measure would ask to keep TABOR excess for stormwater

Mayor wants more

  • COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Camp Creek’s erosion is one example of drainage needs.

Mayor John Suthers says he’ll ask City Council to refer a question to the April 4 city election ballot seeking to retain excess revenue collected in 2016 and 2017 that’s subject to limits imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

But that sum totaling several million dollars, which would be funneled to stormwater needs, is only a short-term fix for the city’s burgeoning drainage needs, Suthers says via email.

“Colorado Springs needs a dedicated revenue stream to fund its stormwater program,” he says. “To proceed without one over a significant period of time would put too much pressure on the general fund to the detriment of public safety and other priorities.”

Discussion among Council members is swirling around the idea of simply imposing a fee or taking a measure to voters. But a stormwater-fee measure won’t be on the April ballot, according to Council President Merv Bennett, and not on the November ballot either.

And there seems to be little appetite for a fee from several other council members consulted for this story.

 

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Oct 23

What Does The Taxpayer’s Bill Of Rights Mean?

Taxpayer_Bill_of_Rights

Section 20

Text of Section 20:

The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights

(1) General provisions. This section takes effect December 31, 1992 or as stated. Its preferred interpretation shall reasonably restrain most the growth of government. All provisions are self-executing and severable and supersede conflicting state constitutional, state statutory, charter, or other state or local provisions. Other limits on district revenue, spending, and debt may be weakened only by future voter approval. Individual or class action enforcement suits may be filed and shall have the highest civil priority of resolution. Successful plaintiffs are allowed costs and reasonable attorney fees, but a district is not unless a suit against it be ruled frivolous. Revenue collected, kept, or spent illegally since four full fiscal years before a suit is filed shall be refunded with 10% annual simple interest from the initial conduct. Subject to judicial review, districts may use any reasonable method for refunds under this section, including temporary tax credits or rate reductions. Refunds need not be proportional when prior payments are impractical to identify or return. When annual district revenue is less than annual payments on general obligation bonds, pensions, and final court judgments, (4) (a) and (7) shall be suspended to provide for the deficiency.

(2) Term definitions. Within this section:

(a) “Ballot issue” means a non-recall petition or referred measure in an election.
(b) “District” means the state or any local government, excluding enterprises.
(c) “Emergency” excludes economic conditions, revenue shortfalls, or district salary or fringe benefit increases.
(d) “Enterprise” means a government-owned business authorized to issue its own revenue bonds and receiving under 10% of annual revenue in grants from all Colorado state and local governments combined.
(e) “Fiscal year spending” means all district expenditures and reserve increases except, as to both, those for refunds made in the current or next fiscal year or those from gifts, federal funds, collections for another government, pension contributions by employees and pension fund earnings, reserve transfers or expenditures, damage awards, or property sales.
(f) “Inflation” means the percentage change in the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index for Denver-Boulder, all items, all urban consumers, or its successor index.
(g) “Local growth” for a non-school district means a net percentage change in actual value of all real property in a district from construction of taxable real property improvements, minus destruction of similar improvements, and additions to, minus deletions from, taxable real property. For a school district, it means the percentage change in its student enrollment.

(3) Election provisions.

(a) Ballot issues shall be decided in a state general election, biennial local district election, or on the first Tuesday in November of odd-numbered years. Except for petitions, bonded debt, or charter or constitutional provisions, districts may consolidate ballot issues and voters may approve a delay of up to four years in voting on ballot issues. District actions taken during such a delay shall not extend beyond that period.
(b) At least 30 days before a ballot issue election, districts shall mail at the least cost, and as a package where districts with ballot issues overlap, a titled notice or set of notices addressed to “All Registered Voters” at each address of one or more active registered electors. The districts may coordinate the mailing required by this paragraph (b) with the distribution of the ballot information booklet required by section 1 (7.5) of article V of this constitution in order to save mailing costs. Titles shall have this order of preference: “NOTICE OF ELECTION TO INCREASE TAXES/TO INCREASE DEBT/ON A CITIZEN PETITION/ON A REFERRED MEASURE.” Except for district voter-approved additions, notices shall include only:
(i) The election date, hours, ballot title, text, and local election office address and telephone number.
(ii) For proposed district tax or bonded debt increases, the estimated or actual total of district fiscal year spending for the current year and each of the past four years, and the overall percentage and dollar change.
(iii) For the first full fiscal year of each proposed district tax increase, district estimates of the maximum dollar amount of each increase and of district fiscal year spending without the increase.
(iv) For proposed district bonded debt, its principal amount and maximum annual and total district repayment cost, and the principal balance of total current district bonded debt and its maximum annual and remaining total district repayment cost.
(v) Two summaries, up to 500 words each, one for and one against the proposal, of written comments filed with the election officer by 45 days before the election. No summary shall mention names of persons or private groups, nor any endorsements of or resolutions against the proposal. Petition representatives following these rules shall write this summary for their petition. The election officer shall maintain and accurately summarize all other relevant written comments. The provisions of this subparagraph (v) do not apply to a statewide ballot issue, which is subject to the provisions of section 1 (7.5) of article V of this constitution.
(c) Except by later voter approval, if a tax increase or fiscal year spending exceeds any estimate in (b) (iii) for the same fiscal year, the tax increase is thereafter reduced up to 100% in proportion to the combined dollar excess, and the combined excess revenue refunded in the next fiscal year. District bonded debt shall not issue on terms that could exceed its share of its maximum repayment costs in (b) (iv). Ballot titles for tax or bonded debt increases shall begin, “SHALL (DISTRICT) TAXES BE INCREASED (first, or if phased in, final, full fiscal year dollar increase) ANNUALLY…?” or “SHALL (DISTRICT) DEBT BE INCREASED (principal amount), WITH A REPAYMENT COST OF (maximum total district cost), …?”

(4) Required elections. Starting November 4, 1992, districts must have voter approval in advance for:

(a) Unless (1) or (6) applies, any new tax, tax rate increase, mill levy above that for the prior year, valuation for assessment ratio increase for a property class, or extension of an expiring tax, or a tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to any district.
(b) Except for refinancing district bonded debt at a lower interest rate or adding new employees to existing district pension plans, creation of any multiple-fiscal year direct or indirect district debt or other financial obligation whatsoever without adequate present cash reserves pledged irrevocably and held for payments in all future fiscal years.

(5) Emergency reserves. To use for declared emergencies only, each district shall reserve for 1993 1% or more, for 1994 2% or more, and for all later years 3% or more of its fiscal year spending excluding bonded debt service. Unused reserves apply to the next year’s reserve.

(6) Emergency taxes. This subsection grants no new taxing power. Emergency property taxes are prohibited. Emergency tax revenue is excluded for purposes of (3) (c) and (7), even if later ratified by voters. Emergency taxes shall also meet all of the following conditions:

(a) A 2/3 majority of the members of each house of the general assembly or of a local district board declares the emergency and imposes the tax by separate recorded roll call votes.
(b) Emergency tax revenue shall be spent only after emergency reserves are depleted, and shall be refunded within 180 days after the emergency ends if not spent on the emergency.
(c) A tax not approved on the next election date 60 days or more after the declaration shall end with that election month.

(7) Spending limits.

(a) The maximum annual percentage change in state fiscal year spending equals inflation plus the percentage change in state population in the prior calendar year, adjusted for revenue changes approved by voters after 1991. Population shall be determined by annual federal census estimates and such number shall be adjusted every decade to match the federal census.
(b) The maximum annual percentage change in each local district’s fiscal year spending equals inflation in the prior calendar year plus annual local growth, adjusted for revenue changes approved by voters after 1991 and (8) (b) and (9) reductions.
(c) The maximum annual percentage change in each district’s property tax revenue equals inflation in the prior calendar year plus annual local growth, adjusted for property tax revenue changes approved by voters after 1991 and (8) (b) and (9) reductions.
(d) If revenue from sources not excluded from fiscal year spending exceeds these limits in dollars for that fiscal year, the excess shall be refunded in the next fiscal year unless voters approve a revenue change as an offset. Initial district bases are current fiscal year spending and 1991 property tax collected in 1992. Qualification or disqualification as an enterprise shall change district bases and future year limits. Future creation of district bonded debt shall increase, and retiring or refinancing district bonded debt shall lower, fiscal year spending and property tax revenue by the annual debt service so funded. Debt service changes, reductions, (1) and (3) (c) refunds, and voter-approved revenue changes are dollar amounts that are exceptions to, and not part of, any district base. Voter-approved revenue changes do not require a tax rate change.

(8) Revenue limits.

(a) New or increased transfer tax rates on real property are prohibited. No new state real property tax or local district income tax shall be imposed. Neither an income tax rate increase nor a new state definition of taxable income shall apply before the next tax year. Any income tax law change after July 1, 1992 shall also require all taxable net income to be taxed at one rate, excluding refund tax credits or voter-approved tax credits, with no added tax or surcharge.
(b) Each district may enact cumulative uniform exemptions and credits to reduce or end business personal property taxes.
(c) Regardless of reassessment frequency, valuation notices shall be mailed annually and may be appealed annually, with no presumption in favor of any pending valuation. Past or future sales by a lender or government shall also be considered as comparable market sales and their sales prices kept as public records. Actual value shall be stated on all property tax bills and valuation notices and, for residential real property, determined solely by the market approach to appraisal.

(9) State mandates. Except for public education through grade 12 or as required of a local district by federal law, a local district may reduce or end its subsidy to any program delegated to it by the general assembly for administration. For current programs, the state may require 90 days notice and that the adjustment occur in a maximum of three equal annual installments.[1]

Amendments

https://ballotpedia.org/Article_X,_Colorado_Constitution

Oct 23

Detailing Pueblo West’s Initiative 5A

KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Pueblo West will be voting on an initiative that would help fund a new community pool, but it would be using excess money that is supposed to be returned to the taxpayer.

Pueblo West tried voting on de-brucing, but that didn’t work, so the ballot is calling for a TABOR timeout for the next ten years to pay for an aquatic center. Basically that means a ‘yes’ vote allows Pueblo West to obtain all tax revenue, a ‘no’ vote would keep Colorado TABOR laws in place which puts a cap on tax revenue a municipality can obtain, and that municipality has to refund the money to the taxpayers.

Pueblo West’s initiative 5A would bring partial funding for a new pool. Grant Shay says because of the current pool being overcrowded, his kids were turned away. Continue reading

Oct 19

The Purpose Of TABOR With Our Communications

50354_2201459078_608064_n

TABOR supporters,

First of all, Thank You for being a member of the TABOR email list!

Emails you receive relay articles and information that both promote, as well as oppose, TABOR.
We don’t always provide articles that endorse TABOR.
It’s important to know the enemy.
You’re smart enough to realize our position advocating for and defending TABOR but we want you to see both sides of the issue.
After all, if TABOR wasn’t around, you and your fellow Coloradans would be paying much higher taxes.

You’re welcome to share TABOR emails to your contacts, along with our website, http://thetaborfoundation.org/
If you’re on Facebook, please “Like” and check out our TABOR page, https://www.facebook.com/coloradoTABOR/
People can join our email distribution list by sending an email with “subscribe” in the subject line to info@TheTABORCommittee.com .
And we do accept donations to help defray the cost of protecting your Taxpayer Bill Of Rights.
Thank you, again!

Any questions, please let us know.
We’re always willing to listen.
Warmest regards,

Your TABOR Board of Directors

TABOR Flyer 11903845_10153520059035902_2509540475343472795_n

Oct 16

Town may need to refund $400K

By David Persons Trail-Gazette

POSTED:   10/14/2016 09:42:15 AM MDT

The Estes Park Town Board was notified by Town Attorney Greg White on Tuesday night in an executive session that the town might be in violation of parts of the TABOR amendment.

The Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, was an amendment to the state constitution passed statewide by voters in 1992. Its intent was to limit annual growth in state and local tax revenues and have all tax increases voted on by residents.

However, one of the little known provisions of TABOR is the requirement that taxing entities must provide information in advance of the vote about how much tax is estimated to be generated in the first year.

 

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Oct 13

EDITORIAL: TABOR lawsuit misguided

50354_2201459078_608064_nPUEBLO CITY Schools (D60) Board of Education has joined a lawsuit that would overturn the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Pueblo County District 70 joined the federal case earlier.

Educators have been led to believe that repealing TABOR’s state and local tax and spending restrictions would trickle down into more legislative funding of the public schools. Not so fast. The state’s recent budget history says otherwise.

Since approved by the voters in 1992, TABOR has done what it promised to do, which is to require voter approval before taxes can be raised and to tie revenue increases to Colorado’s overall economic growth unless voters permit.

In fact, state revenues and spending have increased every year under TABOR even under the cap of combined growth in population and inflation.

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Oct 12

Letter: Don’t be misled by TABOR haters

In his Oct. 10 column, John Young got it wrong. Among the many poor interpretations he offers to oppose the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights is that it forces “crazy things like ask(ing) voters for permission to spend money they’ve authorized.” Much of his opinion piece attacks the part of TABOR that requires governments to get voter approval if the proponents of a tax increase don’t calculate the increase correctly.

However, that TABOR requirement leads directly to greater government accountability and transparency. That’s good.

Young misdirects his anger at the duplicate vote. He should instead direct his impatience at the inaccurate information offered by the tax increase proponents.

The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights requires that you know what the cost will be for any new program or expansion of an existing program. You can weigh whether the price is worth it. The voter then can make an informed decision.

No one wants to give proponents of any measure the incentive to underestimate the cost. Yet, if low-balling the cost helps the measure to pass, there would be pressure for proponents to fudge the numbers. Better to get it right.

Whenever government will grow faster than the automatic increases allowed every year, the voter should know by how much. Voters must demand strict accountability and honesty in creating the estimates. Don’t let tax increase proponents hide the real cost of the programs; don’t let Young mislead you.

There are people who want government to increase its reach into our lives and to spend more of your money on public goods; these folks will always oppose the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. Let them present their arguments fairly and truthfully, but they should not argue for eliminating honesty and accountability.

Penn R. Pfiffner, chairman of the TABOR Committee, is a former legislator who has been involved in fiscal policy issues for over three decades.