In the Nov. 9 Summit Daily, our reporter Caddie Nath had a about a proposal voted on last week at Breckenridge Town Council concerning an increase to the town's property tax mill rate. Since the end result of the measure passing would be that taxpayers would be paying more than if it didn't, we characterized it on our story and headline as a tax hike.We stand by that, even though the reality is that taxpayers will pay less in 2012 under this proposal. The reality is that property valuations are going down, which means property tax revenue goes down with it. The town is proposing to offset some of that loss with a slight increase in the mill rate - from 6.945 to 7.296 - which would effectively bring in $171,000 more in taxes in 2012 than if they left the mill rate alone. So, yes, Breckenridge taxpayer, the decrease in your property valuation means you will still be paying less in taxes to the town next year, but if this proposal passes, you will be paying more than if the town left the mill rate be.
A useful comparison can be seen in the 2010 mill levy question voter passed for the school district. Technically called a "mill levy extension," the question asked voters to extend a portion of an expiring levy, thus bringing in additional funds for the district while still resulting in a net decrease in the property tax bill. Even though it was an overall decrease, the district was required in the ballot language to call it a tax increase, since taxpayers would still be paying more than if it were left alone.No doubt this is a bit confusing, and in Breckenridge it was made even more so by town staff's insistence that we "spin" the news about the proposal to their liking. When we didn't and characterized it as a tax increase, the town issued a statement condemning our story as "misleading" and "incorrect" even though all aspects of the proposal were carefully explained in the story.The proposed increase is, no doubt, relatively small, but we share the view of several Breckenridge Town Council members that the town shouldn't be dinging taxpayers for any extra dollars while the economy is still so soft. The council may vote however they'd like, but they owe it to taxpayers to be clear and up-front about what they're doing and why.