Pitkin County mill levies under scrutiny
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The Aspen School District’s overall mill levy will drop in response to rising property values, district officials assured Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday.
The School Board met informally with commissioners at a joint session; what the school district will do to provide property tax relief in the county was a key concern for commissioners.
The county’s overall valuation is up a projected 31 percent, though more than 3,000 property owners have appealed their valuation with the Assessor’s Office. On Tuesday, the office was still tallying up the appeals; the outcome of the challenges may impact the overall increase in valuation.
As overall property value increases, taxing districts can collect the same amount of revenue with a lesser mill levy. Commissioners are hoping taxing districts lower their levies if they can.
The school district won’t collect a huge windfall with the increased valuation, Superintendent Diana Sirko told commissioners. Though voters have approved a number of mill levy overrides ” allowing the district to keep surplus property tax revenues for specific purposes ” the district is authorized to collect a set amount from those overrides annually. If the mill levy results in revenues that exceed what voters approved, the mill levy will drop, she said.
A large piece of the district’s overall levy is set by the state, but that too is likely to be adjusted if overall property values in the district wind up increasing by about 22 percent or more, Sirko said. The state must adjust that mill rate.
“We have no control over that,” she said.
All taxing districts need to take a close look at their mill levies in light of the leap in values at a time when many taxpayers are struggling with lost jobs and reduced wages, commissioners stressed. The county, which mails out property tax bills, is getting a lot of the heat, though those bills reflect taxes collected by various different taxing districts, noted Commissioner Rachel Richards.
“There is a little bit of an assumption that it’s all Pitkin County … because we send the bill,” she said.
The county needs to look at its own tax collections, Richards added, specifically noting the mill levy dedicated to the Open Space and Trails Program.
“We should lower our mill levies wherever we can,” agreed Commissioner Jack Hatfield. “We’re going to do what we can to be sensitive during these times.”
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