What is TABOR and How Does it Affect the County Budget?

The 1992 amendment to the Colorado Constitution, known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, limits the growth of revenue for all levels of government in Colorado, including the state, counties, cities, schools, and special districts. This is achieved by limiting how much total revenue can be received by these local governments each year and requires voter approval to levy any new taxes or increase tax rates. 

The limit that TABOR sets on the growth of revenue for counties is based on the rate of statewide inflation (Consumer Price Index) plus local growth (value of new construction). For counties, the TABOR formula does not include population growth. Per TABOR rules, any revenue that the county receives from property taxes, grants, and other sources that exceed the TABOR limit must be returned to the taxpayers.

General Fund revenue infographic

For every dollar the county collects from property taxes, 24 cents remains with the county to provide services. The remaining 76 cents goes to public schools, special districts and cities. Even though property values may increase, the amount of property tax revenue the county is allowed to collect is limited by the TABOR limit. Connect to the Treasurer’s Property Records Search application to search by owner or address and find the details in the Tax Allocations section about your property.

Revenue and Expenditure Growth

So how do TABOR revenue limits impact Jefferson County? Over the last six years, the average revenue growth allowed by TABOR has been approximately 3.17%. In comparison, expenditures in the county’s General Fund have increased by an average of approximately 4.63% over that same time frame.

  • During this six-year period, the gap between revenue and the expenditure growth (approx. 1.46%) was covered by spending into the county’s General Fund reserve (savings account).
  • Government finance standards recommend that the county maintain a General Fund reserve equal to about two months of General Fund operating expenses, which for Jefferson County is about $28 million.
  • As a result of the reserve being depleted over this period, the county’s available General Fund reserve has reached its minimum level. To ensure that minimum fund balance is maintained, General Fund expenditures were cut by approximately $16.1 million dollars in the 2020 Adopted Budget.
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