If you own a home or property anywhere in El Paso County, you should have received a slender envelope in the past week from the office of new County Assessor Steve Schleiker.
Inside, you should have found a single page with printing on both sides.
The title on the front, surrounded by a black border: Real Property Notice of Valuation.
Below is a simple description of the property, residential for most, along with the “prior year actual value,” the change in value and the “current year actual value,” figured as of June 30, 2014.
For a large percentage of homeowners in the Colorado Springs metro area, those numbers showed at least a 10 percent increase, if not more in the 15 percent range. And that led the recipients to the real news in this mailing — the estimated taxes due for 2015 and payable next spring.
Here’s the impact for one typical home, a ranch-style Manitou Springs dwelling built in 1966 on a normal-sized lot with nearly 2,000 square feet of living space. The “actual value” jumped from $277,718 to $305,490, or 10 percent, and the total property taxes rose from $1,598.64 to $1,759.21, or 10.04 percent.
That’s a $160 increase in one year, which certainly reflects a strengthening economy with surging home and property values.
The rising property taxes will make it harder for subsequent city and/or county efforts to succeed.
But it’s also unfortunate timing. We found out in the November 2014 election that even a top-notch task force’s diligent work, research and recommendations couldn’t convince voters to approve a regional stormwater solution. And that proposal, which would have produced more than $39 million a year, would’ve cost most homeowners about $80 a year — half of the typical increase now automatically going into effect.
Based on that, it’s logical to conclude that the rising property taxes will make it harder now for subsequent city and/or county efforts to succeed, regardless of how convincing the case surely will be for funding stormwater and other serious infrastructure needs. Many property owners, especially those on fixed incomes, will have little interest in digging even deeper to pay for those badly needed projects.
Yet, about 180,000 homeowners in El Paso County (91 percent of the total) will be paying higher taxes in that 10 percent range, with commercial properties billed for 15 percent or higher.
But now isn’t the time for hand-wringing. Instead, the next mayor of Colorado Springs has to work even more creatively with the City Council, the Board of County Commissioners and surrounding municipalities to cultivate public support for the next potential solution.
It’s true that the city and county might be able to use some of that property tax windfall — as long as it doesn’t become subject to Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) refunds — toward fixing some pressing needs, such as street and road repairs and resurfacing. But portions of everyone’s property taxes also go to public schools, Pikes Peak Library District and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Also, rest assured the county and its municipalities will look at that increased revenue as a way to deal with all kinds of needs, including budget reserves.
The good news is that this case of widespread negative reaction might wear off before the next ballot issue goes to voters. But as we’ve learned, that’s still no guarantee.