BOCC authorizes ballot questions

Voters asked if county can exceed tax growth limitations

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This November, voters will get to decide whether to exempt Moffat County from tax growth limitations.

The Moffat County commissioners authorized the county attorney and budget analyst to move forward with drafting a ballot question on the exemption during a meeting Tuesday.

The county plans to ask voters for a five-year exemption from a state law that restricts property tax growth to 5.5 percent. The commissioners say they need the money to build capital reserves and catch up on capital expenses that the county couldn't meet because of budget shortfalls during the past two years.

"The money retained, first of all, would be put toward the 10 percent capital reserve we've been trying to build. Then, if we meet that, we can use the additional on our capital expenditures," Commissioner Tom Gray said.

If voters approve the question, the county would be allowed to retain $296,596 in property taxes that it wasn't able to use last year.

If voters don't approve the question, taxpayers will receive a temporary property tax credit in 2006. A taxpayer with a personal residence valued at $100,000 would receive a refund of $6.28, budget analyst Tinneal Gerber said. A taxpayer with a business valued at $100,000 would receive a refund of $22.88.

Moffat County only became aware it was limited by the 5.5 percent restriction last year.

"This has not been an issue for Moffat County until this year due mainly to decreasing assessed values or only slight increases," Gerber said.

The commissioners will ask the citizens budget committee to campaign for the initiative. Just formed last year, the committee reviews the county budget and offers the commissioners suggestions regarding finances.

The county believed it had been freed from the restriction in 1996, the year voters approved a ballot issue that exempted the county from certain provisions in the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

The question asked voters if the county could "collect, retain and expend all revenues and other funds collected during 1995 and each subsequent year from any source," but it stipulated "that no sales tax, use tax, or property tax mill levy shall be increased at any time, nor shall any new tax be imposed, without the prior approval of the voters of Moffat County."

County officials thought that this wording allowed the county to exceed the 5.5 percent property tax limitation, Gerber said. But two years later, the Colorado Attorney General released an opinion stating the ballot language wasn't specific enough.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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