Amendment 60 Would Be ‘Devastating’ If Passed
by Barbara Uhles, Former Ouray City Councilmember and Ouray Chamber Resort Assoc. President
Sep 30, 2010 | 2081 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ballot initiatives 101, 60 and 61, which will appear on the November ballot, need to be carefully scrutinized before the elections. The idea of significantly lower taxes and fewer government employees (as would be the case if these initiatives pass) sounds wonderful, especially during a recession, until you study the issues and realize the consequences. Unfortunately, the resulting impacts of these initiatives would not be the panacea that proponents claim.

Here’s a description of Amendment 60 in simple terms:

• Significantly reduces local property tax, which is the main funding source for Colorado schools. Property tax funding for schools would be reduced by 50 percent and the school system would be expected to get the lost funding from the State. Proponents don’t explain how or from where the State is supposed to get these funds, especially if state revenues are cut significantly by Proposition 101 and if the state is prohibited from borrowing by Amendment 60.

• Cancels previous voter-authorized property tax TABOR over-rides (de-Brucings), allowing voters from outside Ouray to overturn the will of Ouray voters as expressed in the prior de-Brucings. These over-rides allowed local governments to retain revenue generated above the Tabor limits on a permanent or temporary basis. After their cancellations, local governments would be forced to incur the cost of conducting another election to do the same thing (re-de-Brucing) and than be expected to pay for these same over-ride elections every four years.

• Government and government-owned enterprises, such as water and sewer utilities, public recreation facilities, public universities and public hospitals, etc., must pay property tax. Although this sounds logical, it would cause users to have to pay significantly higher fees for these services. What proponents don’t tell you is that the property tax you pay is tax deductible on your federal income tax but the service fees are not.

• This amendment also allows “electors” to vote on property taxes where they own property whether they live there or not.

• Requires the state, counties and municipalities to audit and strictly enforce the provisions of this Amendment and allow citizens to sue to enforce its provisions.

Here are the impacts Amendment 60 would have on the City of Ouray:

Amendment 60 could be the most devastating to Ouray services.

• The reduction of significant (50 percent) funding to Ouray Schools could force our school board to face some tough choices:

• Combining Ouray and Ridgway schools, resulting in lay-offs of teachers and causing larger class sizes,

• Lowering teachers’ already low salaries, resulting in not being able to keep good teachers,

• Reducing school office staff,

• Elimination of sports programs,

• Elimination of industrial arts and specialty classes,

• Lack of funding for school library,

• The dream of ever having the money to enlarge the school.

The stipulation that the state must backfill school funding seems impossible. A state budget that has already been trimmed to the bone because of the recession and the reduction of over $1 billion to the state budget if Proposition 101 passed, would make it impossible that the state could ever come up with the funding.

• Because all government entities would be forced to pay property tax, Ouray could have to pay property tax on City Hall, Community Center, Box Canon Falls Park, Children’s ski hill, Sewer treatment plant, both water storage tanks, Weehawken Springs area, Ouray Hot Springs Pool, Fellin Park, Rotary Park, and the Woman’s Club Park.

Due to the fact that Colorado’s business property tax rate is three times that of the residential property tax rate, this could equate to millions of dollars in property tax that the city would have to pay.

• Because of these additional property taxes that would have to be paid by the city if this Amendment 60 passed, Ouray residents, our visitors and utility users could possibly face:

• Significantly higher rates to use the hot springs pool, decreasing the usage of the pool, thus bringing in less money to the city,

• Local residents/children no longer being admitted to Box Canyon or pool free

• Significantly higher water and sewer rates

• The pool being closed in the winter

• Having to sell park property or vacant land owned by the city,

• Decreased maintenance levels for our beautiful parks and other city facilities.

• Because state authorities and enterprises (such as state universities, hospitals, etc.) will also have to pay property taxes, residents in Ouray and the rest of Colorado can expect to pay significantly higher college tuition, hospital bills, fishing and hunting license fees, increased fees for the use of other state owned authorities and enterprises.

• About one-fourth of the city’s property tax mill levy plus all of the mil levy for the Ouray Public Library has been de-Bruced, allowing the city and library to keep funds collected that were above the Tabor limit.

Amendment 60 would repeal the de-Brucing efforts of all these funds and force the city to incur the costs of elections to re-de-Bruce. Any funding source that does NOT pass this re-de-Brucing would have to reset its revenue maximum limits to the 1992 TABOR levels, meaning the city would have to return any income received that is over that. limit to “who knows who.”

• There are a number of homes owned by part-time residents to Ouray, some who might be here only one or two months out of the year. Provisions from this amendment allow for them to vote in any local election, having an impact on issues that might impact our school, property taxes, or any other important local issues.

• Because the provisions of this amendment allow citizens to sue a municipality or the State if they feel it isn’t enforcing the amendment, proponents of the amendment would be constantly harassing Ouray officials if they felt it was not being enforced to their satisfaction. This and the other two proposed initiatives are extremely complex and it will take a very long time to determine all their nuances. The cost in legal fees to Ouray could be significant if that occurs and could be a lawyer’s full-employment-for-life dream.

Here are the impacts Amendment 60 would have on Ouray County.

Amendment 60 could be equally devastating as Proposition 101 to general county services, the County Road and Bridge and Emergency Medical Services. Ouray County would lose approximately $674,287.00 of their $2,761,572.00 real property tax receipts, nearly a 25 percent reduction. See resulting impacts to Amendment 101 and consider how much more residents stand to lose in county services with the additional loss.

• For those living in major cities, private ambulance services are available. Ouray County’s high-quality, well-trained Emergency Medical Services staff and volunteers would be significantly hampered by having to operate with one-third less revenue. The loss of $102,700 each year for the EMS fund would mean:

• The possible elimination of paid staff,

• Lower level of training for volunteers,

• Significantly delayed response time to emergencies,

• Added or significant increases in EMS and ambulance fees,

• Loss of available money for matching grant funds to replace ambulances and other emergency equipment.

• Because all government-owned enterprises would be forced to pay property tax, Ouray County would have to pay property tax on all of its government-owned businesses and authorities, it could mean millions of dollars in additional expense to the county.

• Many of Ouray County’s property tax income sources have been de-Bruced, allowing the county to keep funds collected that were above the Tabor limit.

Amendment 60 would repeal the de-Brucing efforts of these funds and force the county to incur the costs of elections to re-de-Bruce. Any funding source that does pass this re-de-Brucing election would have to reset its revenue maximum limits to the 1992 TABOR levels, meaning the county would have to return any income over that limit to “who knows who”. Some of these funding mechanisms are:

• Mill levy for the Regional Service Authority (the temporarily elected authority that insures the continued quality of medical care in the county),

• Mill levy that generates funds to purchase equipment for the Emergency Medical Services,

• Mill levy that generates money to purchase equipment for the County Sheriff’s Office.

• As is the case in both municipalities, there are a number of homes owned by part-time residents in Ouray County, some who might be here only one or two months out of the year. Provisions in this amendment allow for them to vote in any county election, having a significant impact on issues that might impact our schools, property taxes or any other important local issues.

Uhles commentary on upcoming November ballot issues will continue in the Oct. 7 issue of The Watch with a description of Amendment 61 and the impacts it would have if passed. Go to watchnewspapers.com for Uhles description of Proposition 101.
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