Written by Rhiana Bilderaya
An amendment is on the ballot this year that could affect many Colorado community resources, including all FRCC campuses. It’s called Amendment B, and it centers around whether or not to repeal the Gallagher Amendment. To be clear, a “yes” vote is a vote to repeal the amendment, while a “no” vote means keeping Gallagher in place.
A “yes” vote to repeal the Gallagher Amendment, an outdated attempt to lower taxes, will go a long way to building better communities in Colorado. The reality is that a 10 percent home value increase on a $300,000 home amounts to an increase of $175 in property taxes yearly. That’s $14.58 per month, or about the cost of Netflix. This amount, while nominal to many homeowners, adds up significantly multiplied over many residences. That increase in revenue, now more than ever, is something our communities need. In the face of greatly reduced sales tax revenue, our local governments are struggling to provide the same services most of us use and enjoy.
According to Wikipedia, “The Gallagher Amendment was an amendment to the Colorado Constitution enacted in 1982 concerning property tax. It set forth the guidelines in the Colorado Constitution for determining the actual value of property and the valuation for assessment of such property.”
In plain English, the Gallagher Amendment took the tax responsibility off of residential homeowners and shifted it more to business owners in a 45-55 ratio. This helped ease the property tax burden as home prices rose rapidly in Colorado, especially since 2012.
However, the result of this is that many community resources remain underfunded year after year, as mill levies fail to pass and property taxes are often cut instead of increasing. The community resources range from public schools to community colleges to libraries to fire stations to disability services, just to name a few. With more tax money, Front Range could provide more affordable tuition to its students. In Colorado, residents are required to vote on any tax changes, and often vote against increased taxation. This creates a cascading effect, where services remain annually underfunded and are limited in the resources they can provide.
What does a “yes” vote to repeal the Gallagher Amendment mean? This year particularly, it means that any service funded by the government won’t continue to have its budget slashed (aside from what already occurred at the beginning of fiscal year 2020 in July). Repealing the Gallagher Amendment also won’t raise property taxes. It will freeze them in place. This means they won’t be cut, whereas if the Amendment stays in place, next year property taxes may decrease by 18 percent.
A “no” vote means that the Amendment will stay in place with its 45-55 ratio of property tax to businesses. In many rural communities, this causes the local government budgets (that rely on tax revenue) to stagnate as property tax assessments fall from year to year. In places where home prices are rising rapidly, like the Front Range, the taxes don’t fall, but they also don’t increase. This also leads to stagnation as community resources can’t deliver to their full potential.