Kiowa County Commissioners reject Governor Polis’ request for mill levy reduction
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The Kiowa County Commissioners, in a letter Thursday to Colorado Governor Jared Polis, rejected the Governor’s call for county commissioners and other tax officials across the state to consider reducing local mill levies to provide relief to taxpayers in their jurisdictions.
Governor Polis made the request Wednesday in a letter to local officials in taxing districts across Colorado, noting that residential taxes are up 40 percent across the state, with some jurisdictions seeing a 50 percent increase.
In a special session of the Democrat-controlled state legislature in November, two bills were passed and signed by the governor which excluded the first $55,000 in valuation of homes from property tax, and reduced the residential assessment rate to 6.7 percent.
During the first day of the special session, all Republican proposals were rejected.
In rejecting the governor’s request, the Kiowa County Commissioners noted the county’s small population, limited industry for a tax base, and the need to use its budget to provide essential services. The commissioners also accused the governor of ignoring the state’s voters, and encouraged him to take a closer look at the needs of Colorado’s rural communities.
The governor’s letter and commissioners’ response appear below.
Letter from Governor Jared Polis to Local Elected Officials
Dear Local Elected Officials and Property Tax Administrators,
I want to begin by thanking you for serving as a leader in your community as the head of a local taxing jurisdiction.
Most areas of Colorado have seen a historic increase in home values. Residential properties are up nearly 40% statewide. For some areas, the increases are over 50%. I’m writing to ask you and your board to play a critical role in making Colorado more affordable. With the state now having taken action, the final opportunity to provide meaningful property tax relief for property owners in 2023 lies with you and I’m hopeful you can help provide additional relief.
The state has taken several steps to avoid large increases in homeowners’ property tax bills. The legislature placed Prop HH on the ballot to provide a permanent way to keep property taxes low, with a generous backfill for local governments. With opposition from the left and the right, it didn’t pass.
I then immediately called a special session of the legislature and asked them to do everything we could for homeowners owners. I’m proud that we subtracted $55,000 per home from property tax valuation and reduced the residential assessment rate to 6.7%, for many Coloradans, including your constituents, which, when paired with other recent measures by the state from 2021 and 2022 will provide as much relief from the state as we could get done. But for many Coloradans, including your constituents, this is simply not enough.
Now it’s up to you - local elected officials - to do more, which is why I am urging you to reduce the tax rate (mill levy) in your district. Hardworking people in Colorado cannot afford a 40% increase in their tax bills, or even a 20% increase. Wages have not gone up by anything close to this amount, and high inflation and interest rates are creating an affordability challenge for many Colorado families.
I appreciate that you work hard to pass a budget that is responsive to the needs in your community. With the historic rise in property values, most districts can make significant rate cuts and still maintain strong revenue growth at or above the rate of inflation. I urge you to consider this and reduce your mill levy as much as possible. I recently signed bipartisan legislation providing statutory authority for you to temporarily reduce your mill levies, so you can lower your levies this year without risking a permanent loss of revenue in an uncertain future. Across the state districts like yours can help provide needed property tax relief.
I have asked the Department of Local Affairs to provide guidance to you on options that you can take to lower rates this year while preserving your budgetary flexibility. DOLA’s helpful toolkit is attached to this letter.
One other way you can get involved is by engaging in the Property Tax Task Force established during the recent special legislative session by HB23B-1003. This bi-partisan group is tasked with looking at long-term, locally driven solutions to property taxation, and your engagement is key to that group’s success.
This year is like nothing we’ve seen before. Property owners are now looking to their local elected officials for help during this challenging time. Each and every one of Colorado’s four thousand taxing jurisdictions can be a part of this solution by reducing rates, even if by a small amount. If we all work together - the state and every local government - we can ensure homeowners throughout Colorado are protected.
Letter from the Kiowa County Commissioners to Governor Jared Polis
RE: Mill Levy Reduction Request Dear Governor Polis,
We, the Kiowa County Board of Commissioners, would like to express our appreciation for your seemingly deep concern for the taxpayers of Colorado. We also support our residents and would love to lighten their tax burden. Unfortunately, with a population of less than fifteen hundred (1500) and very little industry to rely on for tax revenue, we operate on an extremely modest budget. We also have the one of the lowest assessed values in the State of Colorado. Your proposal would not allow us to continue to provide the mandated services that we currently offer.
We do have a few areas of extreme concern regarding the past few years under your leadership. It seems each year there are proposals made to the constituents of Colorado for their vote. Each time the vote does not follow your plan, you then find a way to override the voter's decision and pass your agenda regardless. Governor Polis, are you listening to the people of the State of Colorado or just those who support your agenda?
We would encourage you to take an in depth look at the rural areas of Colorado and really compare them to the front range and highly populated areas. There are substantial differences in the needs of these communities and also in the ability to provide for those needs!
In closing, we would respectfully request that you accept the vote of the people and respect the democratic process in which this country was built on! We unanimously decline your proposal to undermine the voters of Colorado and put in place changes that could affect their ability to obtain much needed services in Kiowa County.
Kiowa County Board of Commissioners
Donald Oswald, Chairman
Howard Robertson, Commissioner
Michael Lening, Commissioner