Show some fiscal restraint
November 21, 2007
On Nov. 12, Aspen City Council chambers was filled to overflowing with citizens interested in discussing the city’s ill-conceived historic preservation policies for late-20th-century properties.
Much to their surprise, gathered citizens witnessed two truly “historic” events ” City Council’s consideration of an incredible 63 percent increase in property taxes and, after hearing considerable citizen comment, City Council consideration of a temporary ratcheting back of the tax increase to “only” a 45 percent increase. In total-dollar terms, the proposed 2008 63 percent city of Aspen property tax increase would be greater than the city property tax increases experienced over the last 15 years combined!
Although I commend City Council for considering taking less than all of the windfall tax increase created by escalating values, I suggest the City Council consider adjusting the mill rate to create a property tax increase of “only” 15 percent (4.28 mills). This still-generous increase would allow adequate funding for the projects currently approved by the taxpayers on the originally anticipated schedule and budget. Creating big “cushions” for overruns and frontloaded funding encourages a lack of fiscal discipline.
Over the course of the last 15 years, property taxes in the city of Aspen and Pitkin County have increased by an average of 6.6 percent and 7.4 percent per year based on similar increases in the assessed values. In 2007, assessed valuations skyrocketed 45 percent and 41 percent in Aspen and Pitkin County. The county assessor reports that we can anticipate another 20 percent increase next year.
Correspondingly, unless taxing authorities, including Pitkin County commissioners, Aspen School District, Colorado Mountain College, Town of Snowmass Village, Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Historic District, and Aspen Ambulance and Aspen Fire Protection districts make adjustments in their mill rates, property taxes will increase by a whopping 40 to 45 percent ” in excess of $25 million ” for all of these taxing authorities.
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Yes, as a community, we have voted to de-Bruce many of our local property taxes to allow taxing authorities to retain tax revenue in excess of inflation, but that does not entitle taxing authorities to take such a windfall off the backs of Aspen property owners and businesses. We do not need to accelerate payments on school bonds, open space bonds, hospital improvements, etc., or bloat budgets.
Please adjust mill rates to limit 2008 property tax increases to 15 percent, which is still more than two times the 15-year average increase.