Opinion | Susan Knopf: HH?

I was on YouTube and comical talking animals popped up promoting a “yes” vote on HH. There’s nothing funny about a 40% increase in property taxes. Here in Summit County, Assessor Lisa Eurich told the Summit Daily News assessed property values went up 63%.

Everybody knows property values have skyrocketed in Summit County and much of Colorado. When our property is appraised higher, we pay more taxes on the same millage rate. That seems unfair, but we all know the price of everything has gone up. Our government agencies need to pay staff more, and all the materials they buy to do their jobs, that’s gone up too. Forty percent?  Yeah, not that much.

Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees have demonstrated their good faith. They intend to “temporarily reduce CMC’s mill levy to keep revenue growth near inflation (5.7%) to shield local property owners from the impact of extreme spikes in valuation.”

I’m no expert, but my guess is if all our taxing entities would, or could, do that, there would be no need for HH.

The bottom line is taxes are going up, and that’s nobody’s fault but the marketplace that sets property values. The window to challenge those increased assessments has closed. Is HH the best way to deal with the problem? Gov. Polis and Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie recommend you vote “yes.”

Eurich wrote in an email, “Property taxes would still go up if the measure passes, just not as much. It’s intended to blunt the sudden and dramatic spike in property appreciation we saw with the 2023 reappraisal by:

  1. lowering the residential assessment rate for tax year 2023 from 6.765% to 6.76%; and 
  2. increasing the value reductions on residential property (implemented last year with SB 22-238) from $15,000 to $50,000 for 2023 and $40,000 for 2024.”

Eurich continued, “Starting in 2025, it calls for the implementation of a new “Primary Residence” program that would continue the $40,000 value reduction only for qualifying primary residences. Homeowners will need to apply for this program with the assessor’s office.” 

HH will raise the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights surplus cap by 1% each year. The Blue Book says up to 20% of retained TABOR money will be used to reimburse eligible local governments for lost property tax revenue. Up to $20 million will be used each year for rental assistance. The remaining retained TABOR  funds will be used to reimburse school districts for reduced property tax revenue.

There is concern that this proposition expires in 10 years and can be renewed by the legislature and not the voters. Then again, we always have the democratic process to apply pressure to our elected representatives.

HH equalizes TABOR refunds: uplifting those who make less, and offering a smaller refund to those who earn more.

AARP endorses HH because seniors will get a bigger senior exemption that is portable to a new home if they downsize.

County officials are worried Keystone’s departure from the county tax base will mean a $6 million loss in revenue. County officials say they have a constitutional duty to provide specific services, regardless of whether Keystone pays for those services. Another hole in the bucket.

The best place to read about HH is 2023 State Ballot Information Booklet or, as we all know it, the Blue Book. I like the synopsis on the Colorado Public Radio website. The Colorado Fiscal Institute, The League of Women Voters, The Denver Post and AARP all endorse HH.

Usually my go-to source on complicated issues is nine-time Emmy award winning Marshall Zelinger of 9News. Unfortunately, his reporting has left more questions than answers. If you want to run your own numbers to see how HH will affect your pocketbook, use this online tool.

I think TABOR is inefficient because taxes cost money to collect. Refund checks cost money too. We’ve lost money processing money twice. It’s in our best interest to find an acceptable way to let the state keep it, maybe a credit on the next year’s state income taxes. That said, people say they depend on TABOR refund money to make their lives work, as lots of us really appreciate income tax refunds.

That’s why I say “yes” — on II. Let the state keep the tax money on nicotine products. It helps pay for preschool. Higher nicotine taxes help drive down demand, which is better for everyone’s health.

I’m going to let you sort out HH for yourself. I think the numbers on HH are very personal, and they aren’t the same for all of us.

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