By Dan Njegomir | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — Denver, with its political culture long dominated by Democrats, probably isn’t the easiest place in Colorado to tap into public resentment over government growth.
Yet, even if many locals are inclined to shrug off the depth and breadth of the city’s bureaucracy, the sheer cost of maintaining it might get their attention, once they’re shown the combined tab for not one but three local property tax hikes on the November ballot.
Certainly, that’s the hope of Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz, a veteran budget hawk and the lone Republican on the nominally nonpartisan council.
Faatz has been circulating an ad hoc work sheet detailing the cost to Denver homeowners — and the substantially higher cost to business owners — of a more-than-half-billion-dollar bond issue and operating tax increase by Denver Public Schools alongside a $44 million increase in property tax bills sought by Denver City Hall. The work sheet was first formulated by civic activist and former Denver Councilwoman Susan Barnes-Gelt and updated by Faatz, and shown in full below.
The upshot of their calculations: The old mantra of “just pennies a day,” long a mainstay of tax-hike campaigns everywhere, just doesn’t apply. Not only would the total impact of the measures raise property tax bills by hundreds of dollars a year for the owner of a very modest — by Denver standards — $225,000 home, but it also would make property taxes soar by thousands of dollars annually for the owner of what Faatz says is a “typical” Denver business, with property valued at $1.1 million.
Indeed, within four years of all three tax proposals passing — after the full phase-out of a tax credit Denver has used for years to keep property tax bills in check — each of those “typical” businesses would be facing a most atypical $4,476 leap in their tax bills.
The tax credit has been used to help Denver comply with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the Colorado Constitution, which limits the amount by which tax revenue can grow from year to year. The city’s tax proposal effectively would exempt its property tax from the constitutional limits.
Now, Faatz, who might feel a bit like Paul Revere trying to alert people to the approach of the king’s soldiers, is shopping the data around to civic groups, the news media and just about anyone who’ll listen. The impact of the tax proposals’ triple-whammy on households and especially businesses comes at a bad time, she says.
“We know some businesses are struggling in this economy,” Faatz said this week. “My hope is we could get the economy going, and businesses would be able to create new positions and hire employees. Sending higher property tax bills to those businesses in this economy has the … potential to slow that recovery.”
She has tried to make that case to colleagues at City Hall but hasn’t gotten much of a response.
“I was almost surprised it didn’t provoke more discussion,” Faatz said. “Their concentration was on what can be restored, how we can increase revenue. Mine was more on what can we do without and what would be the impact to taxpayers.”
Contact Dan Njegomir at firstname.lastname@example.org.