Basalt schedules rushed meeting for property taxpayers, won’t say why |

Basalt schedules rushed meeting for property taxpayers, won’t say why

Basalt town government officials said Wednesday they will hold an important meeting Thursday for all property taxpayers in the municipality over the past 25 years — but they’re not saying what it is about.

The meeting will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at Basalt Public Library. For those who cannot make it, a conference call will be held at 5:30 p.m. to recap the tax meeting. The phone number for that call is 571-317-3122 and the access code is 300-624-325.

“This informational meeting about TABOR law compliance is relevant for property owners and those who paid the town of Basalt property taxes from 1994 to 2018,” said the meeting notice from the town.

TABOR is the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, which was passed statewide in Colorado in 1992. It is an amendment to the state Constitution that limits annual growth in revenue and spending to an amount equal to the annual inflation rate and population growth. It also prohibits a tax increase without a specific vote by the electorate.

Many governments in Colorado rushed in the mid-1990s to “de-Bruce” — or offset some of the effects of the TABOR law. Basalt residents voted 224 to 42 in April 1994 to authorize the town government to keep the annual excess revenue, including those raised by property taxes. However, voters must still approve any property tax increase, according to the 1994 ballot language.

Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, reviewed Basalt’s ballot wording at the request of The Aspen Times and said it was “plain vanilla, matter-of-fact” and that he thought it was legally viable. CML is a resource on a variety of topics for municipalities. After TABOR was approved, the organization helped governments figure out the requirements of the measure.

Mamet said he was unaware of Basalt contacting CML recently for advice on any issues related to TABOR. He said he couldn’t speculate on why Basalt is holding its meeting.

The Basalt Town Council held a closed session Tuesday night “for a conference with our attorney for the purpose of receiving legal advice on specific legal questions … more specifically to discuss TABOR restrictions.”

Town Manager Ryan Mahoney declined to provide more information on why taxpayers should attend Thursday’s meeting. When asked if the issue will involve a future ballot question, he replied, “No comment.” All the issues will be laid out at the gathering, he said. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt declined to comment.

Basalt has traditionally adjusted its annual mill levy when it passes its budget. It was unclear Wednesday if a mill levy increase, however small, requires voter approval.

The council on Dec. 11 approved a property tax levy of 5.957 mills for its general fund budget. That included a temporary tax credit of 0.194 mills. That was above the prior year’s rate of 5.792.

(Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct the mill levy approved on on Dec. 11.)