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Clarifying city property taxes

Dear Editor:

Recently the Pitkin County assessor announced that assessed valuations within the county will be increasing from two years ago and there was inference that tax bills would automatically be going up as well. However, city property owners should be aware that, per City Council direction, the city’s portion of 2010 tax revenues will not increase due to the reassessment.

The city of Aspen’s property taxes are under the limitations of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which is the state constitutional amendment that restricts the growth of revenues for the state and local governments. TABOR limits the growth in property tax revenues to that received from new construction and also allows an adjustment for inflation. If assessed valuations increase by more than this amount, then the City Council is required to lower its mill levy or seek voter approval to retain the additional revenue. While there may be small increases or decreases in city taxes on individual properties whose valuation has changed more or less than the average, or changes between commercial and residential assessed valuations, the average of all such changes must meet the TABOR limitation.

The very minor exception to this is the property tax levy levied for stormwater improvements. This mill levy is .65 mills out of a total city tax rate of 5.467 mills. Voters approved this tax in 2007 and exempted it from the provisions of TABOR. City Council has directed staff to set this mill levy at the lower, TABOR-limited rate for the 2010 budget.

There are a number of overlapping tax districts in Aspen and some of the districts are subject to TABOR property tax limits and some are not. The city of Aspen’s mill levy represents approximately 18.6 percent of the average property tax bill. Property taxpayers should be informed as to how tax levies are being adjusted for all of the other districts for the 2010 budget year.

Steve Barwick

Aspen City Manager


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