Larimer County Dance 1/24

by Larry Sarner

One has to look closely at the County’s mill levy numbers to fully appreciate what the Commissioners
did to county taxpayers.

After the state legislature finished monkeying around with the property valuations — partially
cancelling (for this year only) the shift of the annual property tax burden to low-density residences
occasioned by voter repeal of the 40yo Gallagher Amendment — the county’s effective tax base is
now $8.7B (yes, as in Billion). That compares to $7.0B last year.

Last year’s county mill levy was 22.436 mills, raising $156.5M in revenue for the county. Next year’s
mill levy has been set to 22.377 mills, expected to raise $194.8M in revenue. That’s a permanent
rate cut of 0.059 mills (hurrah for that little), but still an additional $38.3M out of the pockets of
taxpayers, a 24.5% year-over-year increase.

Constitutionally, people have the right to expect its county government’s spending to grow only by
annual additions to the tax base (i.e., ‘new’ construction) adjusted for general inflation. The current
annual inflationary rate is 3.38%, and present new construction amounts to 2.18% of the previous
year’s tax base. By right, then, the county government should be receiving only $8.3M more this year
than last.

Meekly responding to considerable public protest over the $30M in extra property tax burden — a
windfall to the government — amounting to 3.442 mills on the assessed value of everyone’s property,
the Commissioners voted to forego collecting $5.5M of that (by declaring a one-time revenue
reduction) this year. But, it isn’t fully a reduction. Since the State backfills 60% of that, meaning the
reduction in actual revenue received by the County from taxpayers comes to only $2.2M.

At the last, County revenue from the property tax, one way or another, is $36.1M ($38.3M – $2.2M), a
23.1% annual increase. Of that, $27.8M ($36.1M – $8.3M), is a windfall taken from property
taxpayers. That’s a 17.8% permanent increase in the size of County government — measured by
property-tax spending — in just one year. All done at the whim of just three elected officials, whilst
ignoring the protests of hundreds of taxpayers.

Commissioners claim that they have kept the growth of county government to 1% year-to-year.
Charitably accepting that claim at face value, then county government is necessarily bloated. If it
takes annual increases of 23% from property owners every year just “to keep services
rolling” (quoting Commissioner Shadduck-McNally), then Larimer County is living well beyond its
taxpayers’ means.

The State Constitution has been constructed to prevent this kind of thing from happening without
contemporaneous voter consent. Yet it’s happening here. That’s because a small number of County
voters in 1999 (unconstitutionally) were asked to allow it to happen this year, and they agreed back
then by a razor-thin margin of only 1,200 votes.

Voters in 2024 can and must change this state of affairs before our elected officials bankrupt us all.
They should rollback the increase by permanently lowering the County’s mill levy next November to
inflation-adjusted to 2023 levels, so that the damage from the Commissioners’ decision is limited to
just this year. And, they should at the same time rescind the 1999 vote so that voters in the future
get to decide their own future and such injustice can never happen again.

Will the Larimer County Republican Party lead the way? The opportunity may not soon come again.

COLORADO NATIVE   |   P.O. Box 378, Berthoud, CO 80513