Potential TABOR Violation by the City of Lakewood

A TABOR fan emailed us:
“Lakewood city council wants to keep the $12 million due back to the taxpayers. Stealing is still illegal right?,”

Our President responded, “What was the source of the $12 million?
If collected by the City, what circumstances would it be due back to the taxpayers? Over-collection (that is above the TABOR limit) or something else?”

The response was, “It was on the channel 8 Lakewood City Council meeting last night. Over collection.”

Our response is as follows,
You asked about a week ago if the TABOR Committee would look into the potential diversion of funds by the City of Lakewood.

Thank you for calling our attention to the situation.  I was unaware of how full the tax coffers have become and of the potential for a tax increase.  I turned to former City Councilman Doug Anderson and he did the research on our behalf.  He learned that the City expects to collect $12 million above its TABOR limit for the year.  The City Manager also informed him that a ballot issue was likely.

The City Council has two options under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.  It can rebate the over-collection or it can obtain voter approval for retaining the funds.  The TABOR Committee is not prepared to charge the City with theft, as the deadline for placing the question on the ballot will not pass until late August.  The broad statement that “all taxation is theft” may be what you are referring to, but that is too strong a position for most Lakewood citizens.  If people let the City know that they expect elected leaders to follow the state constitution, then TABOR anticipates the option of the City keeping the money, with voter approval.  The TABOR organizations have sued in the past when governments ignore TABOR, but we hope that won’t be necessary if the City conforms to the TABOR requirement.  I personally don’t want the City to keep the extra taxes, but the TABOR Committee must wait until the City is in violation before we would charge it with diverting funds.

I suspect that you already are engaged in the opposition, and I applaud the growing grassroots movement to have the City simply decide to rebate the extra taxes, or if Council goes to a ballot measure, to defeat the request.  I have seen emails from Dave Wiechman to that effect and I hope that you and Doug Anderson are communicating too.

Thanks for your concern and efforts on behalf of limited government in Lakewood,

Penn Pfiffner
Chairman, TABOR Committee

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