Colorado Mountain College adjusts mill levy in accordance with 2018 voter authorization

John Stroud
Post Independent

Colorado Mountain College has made use of its new voter-authorized ability to adjust the college district’s mill levy to account for changes in the state residential property assessment rate.

Meeting in Glenwood Springs last week, the CMC Board of Trustees certified the college district’s mill levy at 4.013 mills.

That’s a slight uptick in the college district’s mill levy — intended to compensate for a statewide drop in the assessment rate for residential properties.

The statewide assessment rate was lowered from 7.20 last year to 7.15 in 2019, which reduced revenues to CMC by approximately $200,000.

College district voters in the November 2018 election approved measure 7D, which allows the trustees to adjust the mill levy if the assessment rate declines as a result of Colorado’s Gallagher Amendment, as long as total revenues to the college remain unchanged.

The Gallagher Amendment, which has been on the books since 1983, mandates that the residential assessment rate be lowered in given years to maintain a state property tax ratio of 55% for nonresidential property and 45% for residential. The commercial assessment rate is fixed at 29%.

“The college is not looking for increased revenues, but simply seeks to maintain its current level of funding if and when the assessment rate falls,” Patty Theobald, who was reelected president of the CMC Board of Trustees at the Dec. 11 meeting, said in a statement.

With the new mill levy, homeowners in the newly expanded district — which now includes the Salida area following November’s election — will not pay more in taxes per $100,000 in assessed value.

However, there will be an increase to commercial properties of less than $5 per year per $1 million in value.

Because of a complex interplay of constitutional amendments, in recent years increased property values in larger cities have pushed down the assessment rate across the state, according to a CMC press release explaining the mill levy adjustment.

That can have a disproportionate impact on rural special districts like fire departments, parks districts and CMC. Other special districts around the state are considering following CMC’s lead in seeking relief.

CMC trustees said they were relieved that the change to the statewide assessment was considerably smaller than initially anticipated.

Trustees also indicated at the Dec. 11 meeting that they will continue to explore ways to diversify revenues so the district financial burden does not fall on the shoulders of local taxpayers alone.

“By maintaining the college’s revenues at stable levels, the college’s overall financial position remains among the strongest in the state of Colorado,” CMC President Carrie Besnette Hauser said in the release.

“This allows the college to invest in critical programs such as nursing and police officer training, maintain low tuition for local residents and qualify for low interest rates on debt, which, in turn, reduces overall operating expenses and puts more money into teaching and student learning.”

Hauser stated after 7D passed last year, “7D is not a blank check or an invitation to spend. It’s the opposite,” she said. “It simply ensures that the college’s future revenues remain level.”