Republican Leaders Upset By Property Tax Freeze

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A controversial property tax freeze which was passed by lawmakers in 2007, already has many local leaders calling for change in 2008.

Representative Ray Rose, (R) Montrose, is one of many Western Slope Republicans upset by a property tax freeze passed by the Democrat controlled Legislature last year, and signed into law by the governor.

"It's not a tax freeze, it's a tax increase," said Rose. "Anytime you take more than 1.5 billion dollars more from the people, that's a tax increase."

To figure out your property tax, you take your property value and multiply it by a mill levy. As property values go up, like they are in Mesa County, the mill levy is supposed to go down to offset new taxes. Freeze the mill levy, however, and an increase in property value means an increase in property taxes.

According to lawmakers, the latest reports show that the freeze will raise state property taxes more than 3.7 billion dollars.

"When you have an increase in general funds to the state, that is a required vote of the people," said Representative Steve King, (R) Grand Junction.

According to the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, that's exactly what must happen for a tax increase to occur, leading many to question the measure's constitutionality.

Two well respected independent groups were brought in to take a look at the freeze before it was passes last year. One said it was legal, but the other said it was not.

Those who support the freeze say a vote by elected school districts across the state on the issue makes the move legal.

"I think that it is appropriate," said Representative Bernie Buescher, (D) Grand Junction. "I think that's local control as we have used it in this state."

The Mesa County Commissioners, however, don't feel the same way.

"We heard from citizens across the Valley about their concern over the increases in the taxes they would pay as a result of the mill levy freeze," said Commissioner Janet Rowland.

The commissioners say by their calculations, the freeze will raise over 6 million dollars in property taxes from Mesa County residents. For that reason, they are joining a lawsuit against the state government to get the freeze reversed. They are hopeful the suit will move forward early this year.

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