Letter: Amendment 66 ignores cost of living | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Amendment 66 ignores cost of living

Amendment 66 ignores cost of living

A recent letter to the editor criticizes the Pitkin County Republicans’ recommendation to vote “no” on Amendment 66, which proposes to increase state income taxes by close to $1 billion annually. The letter states that Republicans “erroneously claim” that passage of the ballot measure would hurt Aspen and that the Republicans’ assertion that Amendment 66 eliminates the cost-of-living factor from the state’s school funding formula is “just not true.”

I beg to differ.

Senate Bill 213, otherwise known as the Public School Finance Act, eliminates the cost-of-living factor from the state-school funding formula for local school districts. The act states that it will not go into effect unless Colorado voters approve an increase in state income taxes for education funding (Section 22-54.5-106 of the Act). So the legislation eliminating the cost of living factor will not go into effect unless Amendment 66 passes.

Representatives of the Aspen School District lobbied hard, without success, to return the cost-of-living factor to the state funding formula. Elimination of the factor negatively impacts school districts like Aspen where the cost of living is substantially higher than other localities, making it harder to attract quality teachers.

The Aspen community has repeatedly rallied to help fund schools by approving property tax increases. Not long ago, the community also chose to impose a higher sales tax on itself for this purpose. This tax increase sunsets in 2016 and, combined with the removal of the cost-of-living factor, the Aspen School District may again have to ask voters to increase property taxes.

While each tax increase, taken by itself, may not seem burdensome, the cumulative effect can be devastating. The income tax increase included in Amendment 66 applies across the board to taxpayers in Colorado, no matter the income level. If needed to replace the cost-of-living factor, future property tax increases will have a disproportionate impact on small businesses that occupy or own commercial property, taxed at more than 300 percent the rate imposed on residences. “Mom and pop stores” have had a hard time surviving in Aspen, due in significant part to the outsized property tax component of occupancy costs.

The Republicans again urge a “no” vote on Amendment 66.

Frieda Wallison

Chair, Pitkin County Republicans

Old Snowmass