By Jana Mendez
Voters beware! Amendment 73 is a poorly crafted amendment to our Constitution that will raise taxes on homeowners and other residential property owners. It also possibly increases school property taxes at the expense of cities, counties and special districts. While it pains me to oppose a measure that provides more funds for schools, I cannot support a measure that is being promoted on false premises and that takes away protection from significant tax increases on homeowners. And I truly don't believe that most of those who carried petitions on this issue were aware of this fact.
So here's the story: Amendment 73 does increase funding for schools. That funding comes from increases in the individual income tax on income above $150,000 and increases to the corporate income tax. The increase to the individual income tax will impact many small businesses owners who are not corporations. It's estimated that well over 50 percent of small businesses in Colorado file this way.
What the proponents of Amendment 73 don't talk about is that the Amendment also increases residential property taxes on all residences in Colorado. Not just residences of wealthy Coloradans but on all residences. And those increased taxes will grow by leaps and bounds as residential property values continue to go up and up. And business property taxes are reduced significantly at the same time. So the places where people live will pay more and businesses will pay less. Over time, these increases will be bigger and bigger as the protection for residential property for school funding purposes is stripped away. That protection — called the Gallagher Amendment — has saved homeowners and residential property owners about $30 billion since the 1980s. Without the Gallagher Amendment, property taxes on homes could easily be double their current amount. Amendment 73, by freezing the Gallagher Amendment at the 7 percent rate for all time, eliminates this protection for school property taxes and causes an estimated $255 million increase in residential taxes statewide in 2019 alone, when the rate is estimated to go to 6.1 percent.
Furthermore, the increased property tax for schools might come at the expense of property tax revenue for other local jurisdictions — cities, counties and special districts. So we're upping the tax intake for schools and jeopardizing tax revenue for social services, parks, libraries, public safety, roads and other services.
I'll vote anytime for a clean proposal that provides extra funding for schools. But don't count on me to vote for a flawed proposal that taxes homes at a higher rate and gives business a big tax break.
Jana Mendez served as a state senator from Longmont and Boulder from 1984 to 1994; served as Boulder County Commissioner from 1994 to 2002; and has lived in Longmont for most of five decades.