Su Lum: Primary election – vote next Tuesday
August 7, 2002
On August 13 we’re having what would ordinarily be a ho-hum primary election since no one is running against anyone else (how ho-hum can you get!). However, there is one little item titled Referendum 1A that deserves voter scrutiny. It reads as follows:
“Shall Pitkin County Home Rule Charter Article IX, ‘Limitations on Tax Levy,’ be repealed to make the Charter consistent with the State Constitution, Article X, Section 20, ‘The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights,’ which imposes similar limits on tax levies, such action to be effective as of the effective date of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights?”
On the surface, this looked like a simple “housekeeping” question, but watch out for anything asking us to repeal part of our Home Rule Charter.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, otherwise known as the Tabor Amendment, or the Bruce Amendment, places limitations on the amount we are taxed. This has been in effect since December 31, 1992. We have already excluded several areas of taxation from these constraints (“De-Brucing”), and are regularly asked on the state and local ballots for more exclusions.
Under our Home Rule Charter, we have the Fenton Amendment, which also places tax limitations on Pitkin County.
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Allowable taxes are calculated according to both the Tabor and Fenton amendments, and the county has to take the lowest of the two numbers as our tax base.
In the early years of the Tabor Amendment, the county made out better with the Tabor Amendment, but now the tide has turned and the county stands to gain $150,000 if the standards of the Tabor Amendment are applied, rather than the Fenton Amendment.
All clear so far?
This $150,000 is money we have already paid, and I doubt that anyone would be seriously concerned about getting an $8 refund per $1 million property assessment. I’ve never approved of the rampant “We already collected it, now can we keep it?” tactics, but I think that in this case that should have been the question on the ballot: “Can we keep the $150,000?” rather than asking us to permanently change the Charter by eliminating the Fenton Amendment.
A chunk of the county’s predicted deficit comes from dire prognostications about our future sales tax revenues. I think most of us have about had it with the financial “experts” and their cloudy crystal balls. Let us take it year by year, approve these “You paid it, can we keep it?” year by year rather than overturning the Charter.
Hang on to your power to decide. The Tabor Amendment can be changed at the whim of all of Colorado’s voters, but the Home Rule Charter can only be changed by Pitkin County voters. Vote NO.
All registered Pitkin County voters can vote on this question on August 13.
Mick Ireland wrote a letter to me via the papers last Friday, in which he said that in 20 years he still doesn’t understand the county budget, and it’s going to take me at least 20 days (if not 20 weeks) to understand what he was trying to say in his letter. I’ll try to decipher it before November’s county tax questions. Meanwhile, NO on this one.
We all know the county is hurting – we’re all hurting. We’d REALLY know they’re hurting if they stopped warning us of cuts to the seniors, the animals, HOSPICE et al and said instead, “We’re going to have to dissolve the Planning Department.”
[Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks that’ll be the day. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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