Summit County voters pass Measure 1A
KEYSTONE — Summit County voters approved ballot Measure 1A on Election Day, maintaining funding for mental health resources, wildfire mitigation, child care and other community services.
Summit County voters came out in support of Measure 1A with 58.3% of the vote Tuesday night. The measure allows the Summit Board of County Commissioners to adjust the county’s mill levy rate to maintain revenue in the face of future property tax rate decreases.
According to proponents, the measure’s approval was vital in maintaining and stabilizing some of the county’s most essential programs.
“Clearly, we’re very happy with the voters of Summit County for their support of all of these important programs that they, the voters, have passed over the last 20 years,” Commissioner Thomas Davidson said. “This will provide for the protection of our open space and natural resources as well as programs that serve local working families. …
“We knew just from the math that what was in front of us was going to be a 13% cut to all those programs. So thank heavens our voters understood this and decided to allow us to maintain that funding.”
Summit County was expecting a $5.5 million loss in revenue in 2022 as a result of dropping residential assessment rates related to the Gallagher Amendment. The Gallagher Amendment, adopted by voters in 1982, divides the state’s property tax burden between residential and nonresidential properties, and mandates that only 45% of the state’s property taxes can stem from residential properties.
In addition to the cap, Gallagher sets the nonresidential assessment rate at 29% of the property’s assessed value and adjusts annually to maintain the 45-55 split. Simply put, when residential property values grow faster than commercial properties, homeowners are contributing more than their share under the law, and a mandatory tax cut is triggered.
The residential assessment rate is projected to drop from 7.15% in 2020 to 5.88% in 2022. The dip would result in about $5.5 million in lost revenue for Summit County, including a $1.33 million hit to the general fund. County officials said the losses would impact fire mitigation funding, mental health services, water protection efforts and more.
The approval of 1A allows county commissioners to adjust the county’s mill levy rate in order to maintain the revenue that would otherwise be lost.
Opponents of the measure said some of the long-term impacts of the drop in revenue have been exaggerated, and that county officials should be focused on budget prioritization and the proper utilization of current fund balances instead of tapping property owners.
“I think the drop in revenue is a temporary problem, and they have $80 million in fund balances,” said Mike Tabb, chairman of the Summit County Republicans. “This is the rainy day you keep fund balances for, so I think they need to address that and stop coming back to voters every time there’s a little hiccup in the revenue stream. … It has an economic impact. It’s a hit on everybody’s budget. That’s why I would argue the county could have gone another route.”
Ultimately, Summit County voters chose to back the stabilization measure to maintain current funding for vital services.
Of note, whether the county commissioners have to make any adjustments depends on the results of Amendment B, a statewide measure to repeal the Gallagher Amendment entirely. Amendment B is likely to pass with 57.6% of the vote. If both measures pass, the county would still be able to adjust mill levies, but likely wouldn’t have to.
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