Having lived in Jefferson County for 24 years, I know firsthand our quality of life is unparalleled. We have a reputation as a wonderful place for all to thrive. However, the quality of services the county provides to residents and local businesses come at a cost.
As many of you know, we have been operating in a tight financial environment over the last several years. Our primary revenue source is property taxes, and it is limited in various ways based on state law called the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR).
TABOR continues to be a topic that many people struggle to fully understand and presents many challenges to the county budget. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to share more information about TABOR, including what it is, what does it do, how does it affect the County’s budget and more.
What is TABOR? An amendment to the Colorado Constitution enacted by voters in 1992 that limits the amount of revenue governments in Colorado can retain and spend, including the state, counties, cities, schools, and special districts.
What does TABOR do? It contains several provisions concerning revenue for state and local governments in Colorado. The two principal provisions are the requirement of voter approval for tax increases, and the limitation on the growth of revenue from one year to the next. Some of those provisions include:
How Does TABOR affect the County Budget? The major impact on the county budget is that often we cannot retain all the revenue that we collect, despite a growing economy and new construction. TABOR causes county revenue to drop dramatically and quickly in times of an economic downturn and is only allowed to grow on average approximately 3% per year during recovery thereby causing the county to reduce expenditures and services.
Is the TABOR refund always made to the taxpayers by check? The Colorado Constitution allows lawmakers and local officials to determine how to return the money. Examples include a credit to the following year’s property tax bill, a temporary adjustment to the mill levy, or a refund check.
Why doesn’t the county just keep these refund checks to address its budget challenge? We must obtain prior approval from the voters to retain and spend any revenue more than TABOR limits. If we do not have voter approval, that excess revenue must be returned to the taxpayers.
Jefferson County, unlike other Colorado counties, does not have permission from voters to re-invest dollars over our TABOR cap back into essential county services, like transportation, roads, and public safety. Did you know that even state grants for public safety, parks, roads, housing, and mental health count against our TABOR cap?
In the coming weeks, the Board of County Commissioners will review, and ultimately approve, the 2022 county budget in November. As we continue these conversations for 2022 and beyond, we urge you to let us know what services and programs matter most to you. What are your budget priorities? How do you feel it is best for Jefferson County to try and solve these issues? To share your views, contact us at (303) 271-8525 or [email protected].Once again, I want to thank you for the privilege of serving you and I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at [email protected] or call my direct line at 303-271-8511.
To learn more about the budget challenges, visit www.jeffco.us and click on the Financial Realities page link on our home page. You can also see the county’s Financial Transparency Portal.
To learn more about the Jefferson County Commissioners, visit our website. The Board of County Commissioners’ public hearings are held on most Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. and we invite you to join us for public comment. Click here for details.