2023 TABOR Refunds

Why did I receive a TABOR refund check in the mail from Jefferson County?

When the total revenue collected by the state or local government is greater than the TABOR limit, Colorado state law requires that revenue above the limit be returned to taxpayers the following year. Revenue collected above the TABOR limit must be returned to taxpayers even if it is needed to cover the increased costs of delivering services. All Jefferson County property taxpayers from 2022 will receive their proportionate share of the estimated $39.4 million refund.

Why did Jefferson County receive more revenue in 2022 than the TABOR limit allows?

As with any business or service organization, the availability of resources largely determines the level and quality of the services that can be provided. In Colorado, the amount of revenue that can be received annually by local governments is determined by the TABOR revenue limit formula. This formula is calculated differently for state government, county and local governments, and school districts.

Each year, the TABOR revenue limit increases by a certain growth factor from the prior year or actual revenue collected, and the one that is lower is selected to limit county revenue. Because the county received much less revenue in 2020 due to the economic shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, the TABOR formula automatically ratcheted down the 2021 revenue limit by approximately $14.5 million.

This means from that point forward, the TABOR revenue limit now grows from that lower starting point. Any revenue received above this lower limit must, by law, be returned to the taxpayers. The demands for services, including the costs to maintain roads and transportation, were already outpacing what the county can afford to provide. And due to this automatic lowering within the TABOR formula, that $14.5 million will not be retained by the county to provide existing service levels to the community. Due to the lower revenue limits, refunds totaling approximately $39.4 million are being issued in 2023.

2023 Jefferson County Funding Challenges, TABOR Revenue Limit Formula image

How do these refunds impact the Jefferson County General Fund?

Because it is not feasible to return grant dollars or user fees, the TABOR refund checks must be drawn from the General Fund, which is primarily funded by property taxes. While most sources of revenue are combined to determine the total TABOR revenue limit, revenue from non-property tax sources, like state grants, can only be used for specific purposes.

This means additional state dollars cannot be used to backfill any shortage of General Fund revenue. This is similar to oil and water — while both liquids fill the bucket, they can’t mix.

The result: as more revenue is received from non-property tax sources, like state grants, there is less room under the revenue limit, so more dollars from the General Fund must be refunded. This means the county must regularly choose between depleting the General Fund to accept these additional sources of revenue or turning those dollars away - money that is needed to address a variety of critical needs, like wildfire mitigation, public safety, and deteriorating roads.

TABOR Revenue Limit - bucket graphic - web
TABOR Revenue Limit After Impacts - bucket graphic - web

Can federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) be used to address the impacts to the county General Fund?

Jefferson County continues to evaluate and maximize all possible sources of revenue to address the ongoing gap between allowed revenue growth (TABOR) and the rising cost of providing services (inflation). This includes plans already underway to leverage federal funding from the ARPA in 2022, 2023, and 2024. This will temporarily help cover the General Fund deficit for those years only because the use of these funds represents one-time sources of revenue.

How do these refunds affect services from Jefferson County?

The county has been discussing these funding challenges with our community for several years. In the last few years, the county has had to implement additional cost-saving measures and reduce spending in the General Fund by cutting or eliminating a variety of services and programs.

These cuts have had real-world impacts on the community by reducing the level at which services are able to be provided. For more on these previous reductions and eliminations, see the graphic below and the 2020 Reductions and Eliminations web page.

Jefferson County Funding Challenges, Previous Reductions image

What’s the difference between the Jefferson County TABOR refund checks and the TABOR refunds from the State of Colorado?

Taxpayers across Colorado may receive checks from the state as a refund of state revenues, which is primarily income tax collected above the statewide TABOR limit. In addition, Jefferson County property taxpayers are receiving refund checks in 2023 to return revenues the county received above the county TABOR limit, which is primarily property taxes, paid in calendar year 2022. Both checks are a result of TABOR requirements.

What happens if I don't cash the Jefferson County TABOR refund check?

The Treasurer's Office encourages all taxpayers who receive a refund check to cash it. Please do not return your refund check to the Treasurer's Office. Any uncashed checks will be retained in an unclaimed property account.

What is the Treasurer’s unclaimed property account?

Unclaimed Property is unclaimed or abandoned intangible property. It represents a certain obligation an organization holds for another person or business. It includes checking and saving accounts, certificates of deposit, over-payments, insurance checks, payroll checks, utility refunds, money orders, un-cashed checks, dividends, stocks, bonds, contents of safe deposit boxes, and more. By statute, the county cannot access these funds for five years once placed in the account.

How many checks are being mailed and how much does it cost to send each check?

We are mailing approximately 210,000 checks and it’s costing the county approximately 97 cents to mail each check.