Amendment 60

Limit Property Tax

Full text of the Colorado Amendment 60 (Limit Property Tax):

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:
Article X, section 20, The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is amended to add:
(10) Property taxes.
Starting in 2011:
(a) The state yearly shall audit and enforce, and any person may file suit to enforce, strictest compliance with all property tax requirements of this section. Successful plaintiffs shall always be awarded costs and attorney fees; districts shall receive neither. This voter-approved revenue change supersedes conflicting laws, opinions, and constitutional provisions, and shall always be strictly interpreted to favor taxpayers.
(b) Electors may vote on property taxes where they own real property. Adapting state law, all districts shall allow petitions to lower property taxes as voter-approved revenue changes. Property tax issues shall have November election notices and be separate from debt issues. Property tax bills shall list only property taxes and late charges. Enterprises and authorities shall pay property taxes; lower rates shall offset that revenue. Enterprises and unelected boards shall levy no mandatory fee or tax on property. Future property tax rate increases shall expire within ten years. Extending expiring property taxes is a tax increase. Prior actions to keep excess property tax revenue are expired; future actions are tax increases expiring within four years. Non-college school districts shall phase out equally by 2020 half their 2011 rate not paying debt; state aid shall replace that revenue yearly. Nothing here shall limit payment of bonded debt issued before 2011.
(c) These property tax increase, extension, and abatement rates after 1992 shall expire:
(i) Taxes exceeding state laws, tax policies, or limits violated, changed, or weakened without state voter approval. Those laws, policies, and limits, including debt limits, are restored.
(ii) Taxes exceeding the one annual fixed, final, numerical dollar amount first listed in their tax increase ballot title as stated in (3)(c).
(iii) Those rates without voter approval after 1992 of a ballot title as stated in (3)(c).

Be it Enacted by the People of the State of Colorado:Article X, section 20, The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, is amended to add:(10) Property taxes.Starting in 2011:(a) The state yearly shall audit and enforce, and any person may file suit to enforce, strictest compliancewith all property tax requirements of this section. Successful plaintiffs shall always be awarded costs andattorney fees; districts shall receive neither. This voter-approved revenue change supersedes conflictinglaws, opinions, and constitutional provisions, and shall always be strictly interpreted to favor taxpayers.(b) Electors may vote on property taxes where they own real property. Adapting state law, all districts shallallow petitions to lower property taxes as voter-approved revenue changes. Property tax issues shall haveNovember election notices and be separate from debt issues. Property tax bills shall list only property taxesand late charges. Enterprises and authorities shall pay property taxes; lower rates shall offset that revenue.Enterprises and unelected boards shall levy no mandatory fee or tax on property. Future property tax rateincreases shall expire within ten years. Extending expiring property taxes is a tax increase. Prior actions tokeep excess property tax revenue are expired; future actions are tax increases expiring within four years.Non-college school districts shall phase out equally by 2020 half their 2011 rate not paying debt; state aidshall replace that revenue yearly. Nothing here shall limit payment of bonded debt issued before 2011.(c) These property tax increase, extension, and abatement rates after 1992 shall expire:(i) Taxes exceeding state laws, tax policies, or limits violated, changed, or weakened without state voterapproval. Those laws, policies, and limits, including debt limits, are restored.(ii) Taxes exceeding the one annual fixed, final, numerical dollar amount first listed in their tax increaseballot title as stated in (3)(c).(iii) Those rates without voter approval after 1992 of a ballot title as stated in (3)(c).

Explanation (From LimitPropertyTax.com)

The text of Amendment 60 is in bold. The explanation is in plain type. YES on 60.

(10) Property taxes.

This is the broad single subject-assessment-based taxes on real and personal property, including preventing other types of property charges than such taxes.

Starting in 2011:
The petition becomes law upon the governor’s proclamation following its November voter approval. All changes made by this text begin January 1, 2011.

(a) The state yearly shall audit and enforce, and any person may file suit to enforce, strictest compliance with all property tax requirements of this section.
State government must verify each year that all governments are obeying the literal, full meaning of all property tax rules in TABOR, which now includes this subsection (10). Governments must not obey merely some laws most of the time; “substantial compliance” is not enough. Citizens may also sue to ensure such super-strict enforcement by the state and all local governments. “Any” means all; personal harm is not needed. Likewise, they need not post bonds to get their day in court.

Successful plaintiffs shall always be awarded costs and attorney fees; districts shall receive neither.
If the state or a citizen sues a violating government (“district” means “government”) and wins, even partly, that plaintiff must receive all its court costs and legal fees. Government defendants never get costs or fees. They may have staff attorneys; none pays court costs. Citizens should not fear bankruptcy from losing a case.

This voter-approved revenue change supersedes conflicting laws, opinions, and constitutional provisions, and shall always be strictly interpreted to favor taxpayers.
When approved by voters, this petition lowers property tax revenue. Thus, it is a voter-approved revenue “change,” just like a voter-approved tax increase. It adjusts governmental spending and property tax limits down just as increases adjust them up. It prevails in any conflict with statutes, ordinances, prior court rulings, lawyer opinions, or constitutional language, including prior “interpretations.” Courts must rule in favor of taxpayers, not governments, on all credible grounds.

(b) Electors may vote on property taxes where they own real property.
An elector is defined by law (11104 (12) C.R.S.) as “a person who is legally qualified to vote in this state.” Knee-jerk
opponents have already claimed this sentence will allow illegal aliens, felons, corporations, foreigners, etc. to vote. That’s silly. Illegal aliens and Texans are not citizens and residents of this state. Corporations are not eligible to vote; only natural persons are. Incarcerated felons are ineligible to vote. All this petition does is fix an irrational legal gap. Right now, you can vote in “special district” elections where you own taxable property, but do not live; see later definition (49) of “taxpaying elector.” But you can’t vote on city, county, and school property tax issues. That is no basis to discriminate. Under this reform, Colorado adults qualified to vote (now registered or not) who own any real property interest here (cabin, condo, lot, mineral) recorded in their name and who are liable for its property taxes can file and will receive election notice comments, can sign a petition, and can vote on any property tax issues in that district. Districts must notify them by mail well in advance about their rights to vote and participate. It’s only fair that all governments treat all Colorado citizen taxpayers the same.

Adapting state law, all districts shall allow petitions to lower property taxes as voter-approved revenue changes.
Today, you cannot petition counties, schools, and special districts to initiate any change—only cities! This is another legal inconsistency. Government must allow citizens the right to petition! Government can ask for tax increases; citizens should be able to ask for decreases. Procedures for state petitions (six months to sign up district voters equal to 5% of district votes for secretary of state) will apply to local ones, which can’t face new hurdles. Petitions are voter-approved revenue changes.

Property tax issues shall have November election notices and be separate from debt issues.
Limit property tax elections to one day a year. Right now, special districts and cities have spring elections with low turnouts (like 3%!) That does not represent the will of the citizens. All issues (higher or lower taxes, or other property tax issues) will have TABOR election notices. Borrowing money and raising revenue are separate. You can get a home loan without getting a pay raise; you can repay debt with current revenue. Those two issues are treated as separate single subjects.

Property tax bills shall list only property taxes and late charges.
Governments now add parking tickets, fees, service charges, utilities, and other unproven claims to property “tax” bills. They threaten to take your home if you don’t pay. That denies “due process of law,” your constitutional right to “a day in court.” Property tax bills are only for property taxes, and fees and interest on those unpaid taxes—not a dumping ground for miscellaneous government monetary claims. It’s only fair—you are not liable until proven liable in court.

Enterprises and authorities shall pay property taxes; lower rates shall offset that revenue.
“Enterprises” are government-owned businesses, like a golf course, utility, hospital, gym, or parking lot. “Authorities” are other government businesses, like housing, toll roads, water, and urban renewal. Government has many businesses competing unfairly with the private sector. Government makes you pay taxes, but won’t pay taxes on its businesses! Let’s broaden the tax base, even if the taxed property is held in its government’s name. More pull the wagon and fewer ride in it. Tax rates decline so all taxpayers benefit from ending this current tax subsidy to socialism.

Enterprises and unelected boards shall levy no mandatory fee or tax on property.
The supreme court says enterprises, being businesses, can’t levy “taxes.” But enterprises now bill drainage and other involuntary “fees” against property. (If it looks like a duck…) Such bills will end. Districts (library, water conservancy, special or general improvement, etc.) and “authorities” with unelected boards also impose property taxes and fees. That’s “taxation without representation.” If politicians want to tax you, vote on them as elected officials for those specific offices–subject to recall, ethics rules, campaign limits, etc. Indirect, assigned, or delegated levies by proxy are banned if they can’t do it directly. They can run for those board seats in 2011, before the next such tax or fee on your property. Appointed board members cannot levy any tax or mandatory fee. No vote, no tax…that’s the Spirit of 1776.

Future property tax rate increases shall expire within ten years.
“Expire” here means increased tax rates return to lower levels. Politicians promise voters how tax hikes will be spent. They’ll get a maximum of 10 years to keep their word. Hold them accountable. See what value you got for your tax rate hike. If they get five mills in new taxes, five mills will expire.

Extending expiring property taxes is a tax increase.
When bonded debt is paid off, its tax expires (goes away). To renew any tax requires a new tax increase election. Ballot titles must start, “SHALL (DISTRICT) TAXES BE INCREASED ($X) ANNUALLY…?” That rule is now being violated, even though you pay more tax if the tax issue passes than if it is rejected. That makes it a tax increase.

Prior actions to keep excess property tax revenue are expired; future actions are tax increases expiring within four years.
All actions keeping such excess revenue, some without voter approval, are ended. De-TABORing questions were written to last forever, though TABOR says a waiver on voting can last only “four years.” They stated no amount, though TABOR says they are “dollar amounts.” Extensions may be renewed for four years. Since they keep taxes high, ballot titles are stated as tax increases the difference between property tax revenue in the final future year (up to four years) of the requested extension, and the revenue, rate-adjusted since tax year 1991, without it. If no extension is renewed in 2011, tax rates reverts to lower levels, as if de-TABORing never took place. Recompute from 1991 using the growth limit. (The state School Finance Act did this for 14 years.) 2011 tax rates (paid in 2012) will be lower than 1991 ones because assessments are much higher, offset only by inflation, local growth, and tax rate increases legally approved by voters for remaining bonds, etc.

Districts misled voters to give up their tax refunds forever, while denying that was the result. Schools promised “no property tax increase;” legislators falsely claimed years later voters intended it. Legislators’ 2007 property tax hike weakened, without state voter approval, the state School Finance Act. Save billions by rescinding illegal school property tax increases meant to free up state aid for non-school use!

This will also prevent “freezing” mill levies when they must drop to offset higher assessments. Some districts now take the illegal excess revenue and may ask voters in a later year if the district may keep it. That is a retroactive “approval” of an illegal action. Requiring voter approval in advance of a tax increase will end that illegality.

Non-college school districts shall phase out equally by 2020 half their 2011 rate not paying debt; state aid shall replace that revenue yearly.
This applies to the 178 K12 school districts (not community colleges). The state constitution requires the state provide “a thorough and uniform system of free public schools.” Poor and rural districts can’t afford higher taxes to fulfill that state role. Rates vary by local wealth; the system is not “uniform.” To reduce that unfair taxation, first, adjust the 2011 total tax rate as Amendment 60 requires. Then divide half the non-debt rate by 10. That amount lowers tax rates in tax years 2011-20, fully replaced by state aid. The state cost in 2012 is about 0.5% of state spending of $20 billion, so in 10 years, this tax relief will be under 5% of ever-growing state spending. Property tax should pay only for property services—police, fire, roads, etc. Today, over half pays for schools the state must legally fund. The 2007 property
tax increase was never “for the children;” it was always for the state bureaucrats.

Nothing here shall limit payment of bonded debt issued before 2011.
State and federal constitutions forbid laws impairing or defaulting on contractual obligations. Existing bonds will be paid, even if that means using taxes that are illegal, or debts violating limits on state or local debt. But government must exhaust all legal sources of revenue before turning to illegal ones.

(c) These property tax increase, extension, and abatement rates after 1992 shall expire:
Rate expiration is prospective only; it won’t lower 1992-2011 revenue. The right to refunds of past illegal revenue is still intact. Starting in 2011, rates are recalculated from tax year 1991 (paid in 1992). Abatement levies raised tax rates without voter approval, to cover mistaken over-assessment of property. Government errors are not exempt from rules of voting on tax increases! Ditto tax hikes for asbestos work.

(i) Taxes exceeding state laws, tax policies, or limits violated, changed, or weakened without state voter approval. Those laws, policies, and limits, including debt limits, are restored.
The 2007 school tax hike violated the 1994 School Finance Act that lowers school tax rates to offset large assessment gains. It violated state limits only state voters may “weaken.” Lawmakers passed a tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain to school districts. They now get more property tax because the state quit limiting tax rates. For 14 years, the state obeyed the law. Future cost in illegal taxes? Billions. Amendment 60 ends the act and restores 1992 limits and policies. All illegal state actions end, like weakening fixed 1992 limits on taxes to pay debt.

(ii) Taxes exceeding the one annual fixed, final, numerical dollar amount first listed in their tax increase ballot title as stated in (3)(c).
Tax increase ballot titles now begin with a warning, “SHALL (district) TAXES BE INCREASED ($ X) ANNUALLY…?” The word “annually” means “year by year,” “each year from now on,” etc. If they ask in 2001 for $5 million annually, they may get that in 2001, 2002, etc. They can’t get $5 million in 2001, $5.2 million in 2002, etc. Voter-approved revenues are “dollar amounts.” That’s why a dollar amount is required in ballot titles. Governments can get only what voters approved (after 1992) in the ballot title opening. That fixed amount doesn’t grow by inflation, as the base does. It can’t exceed the fixed, stated dollar amount, even if so requested later in the title. That higher tax would also be illegally “phased in.”

(iii) Those rates without voter approval after 1992 of a ballot title as stated in (3)(c).
Some governments raised their tax rates with no vote. Others failed to counter high assessment valuation increases with rate cuts, as required by law. Some later raised tax rates based on a pre-1992 vote or debt. Some never cut rates after an increase expired. Some did not obey ballot wording for new taxes or for extension of expiring ones. All these taxes are illegal and rates must be refigured starting from 1991, and lowered in 2011. DeTABORing is an “extension rate.” Actions since 1992 to extend current rates, rather than adjust downward to offset the higher assessment values, will expire; the rate returns to where it would have been. DeTABORings had no tax increase ballot wording, so such rate extensions expire in 2011. Tax rates then reset, starting with the base of 1991 tax rates paid in 1992, adjusted each year to establish the legal 2011 property tax rate to be paid in 2012.

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