By Erica Meltzer
The plain language of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights says that to raise taxes from one year to the next requires a vote of the people.
But what if voters agreed to keep school property taxes steady more than 20 years ago and state officials lowered them instead? Does it take another vote of the people to return tax rates to the previous level? Or does increasing them simply correct an error?
That’s the question the state Supreme Court took up Tuesday as lawmakers seek a solution to a vexing problem in school funding.
Colorado lawmakers sent the court a formal question — known as an interrogatory — last month seeking a constitutional ruling before they give final approval to a bill that gradually would increase local property taxes over 19 years.
If approved, the change would generate more than $90 million in new revenue for schools next year and more than $288 million a year when fully implemented. That would take a big bite out of the funding gap that Colorado schools experience when lawmakers hold back education dollars to pay for other priorities — but the money would come from local taxpayers, not state coffers.
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