Council sets example by giving money back
November 27, 2007
The Aspen City Council did something this week that other government entities would be wise to emulate, if they can. Council members ” in a move that should win them back some respect from their critics ” decided to give some money back to taxpayers.
In a year when assessed valuations jumped by more than 40 percent, the city was poised for a windfall of property tax revenues. They agreed Monday to credit some $2.5 million back to taxpayers. It’s an uncommon gesture for government agencies in general, and Mayor Mick Ireland said he thinks it’s the first time in decades for the city.
To be sure, the city will keep the majority of its increased collections, in order to keep a promise to voters from 2005. In that year, voters agreed to let the city keep excess tax revenues in order to build new sidewalks, buy new fuel-efficient buses and design a new outdoor pool at the Aspen Recreation Center. So, the city will keep enough to complete those projects and give the rest back to taxpayers.
This credit isn’t enough for some taxpayers, who think the council could go further. But they need to look beyond the city, which accounts for roughly 20 percent of locals’ tax bills. Eighteen entities appear on most local tax bills ” it varies, of course, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction ” including the local school district, the hospital, Pitkin County, Colorado Mountain College and special districts from sanitation to fire protection to the library.
We urge each and every one of these other entities to take a hard look at their budgets and see if they really need every penny of the coming monetary influx. Incomes aren’t rising at the same rate as local real estate values, and property owners could use the break.
We also urge property owners to take a look at their tax bills and contact the relevant organizations, perhaps even attend a board meeting. We’d wager that the city would have kept its windfall if residents hadn’t spoken up, and a little accountability to the taxpayer wouldn’t be a bad thing for other tax-funded entities.