A rider bikes along the South Platte River Trail on Aug. 23, 2017, in Denver.
A former Broomfield City Council candidate has formed an opposition group to challenge a property tax increase sought from metro area voters for the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.
The regional district referred a tax-restoration measure to the Nov. 6 ballot, seeking a 48-percent increase in its rate next year to pay for more projects. If voters approve Ballot Issue 7G, the rate in most of the district would increase from 56 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to 83 cents; the district also would receive the authority to raise the tax rate even higher by board vote, up to a ceiling of $1.
That is the level the rate was at in 1992, before Colorado voters approved the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. TABOR instituted revenue growth limits that have ratcheted down the rate, though overall tax revenue has grown in recent years.
“The ballot language is written in a way to not really let people know that they’re giving up their rights under TABOR” to vote on subsequent tax increases, said Karl Honegger, who ran unsuccessfully for the Broomfield council last year.
Earlier this month, he formed an opposition committee called Taxpayers Protecting Affordable Housing, began soliciting donations and launched a “No on 7G” website.
He questions the district’s plans for the new tax revenue and portrays the increase as a potential “blank check” for a special district that’s not directly accountable to voters.
The flood control district’s executive director, Ken MacKenzie, has said the steep tax increase would keep up with a large gap in current annual funding requests by the district’s 41 cities and counties. The district has a $32 million annual budget, and the initial increase is expected to generate $14.9 million next year.
“The need is there,” MacKenzie said last month.
The full rate restoration would raise an additional $24 million a year, which is double the district’s spending on projects and programs. The district estimates the full increase would cost $13 for the owner of a $400,000 home.
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The district’s board members mostly are elected mayors, council members and commissioners who receive appointments by cities and counties within the district.
Honegger criticized the board’s decision earlier this year to spend $1.4 million on a public outreach campaign to raise the district’s profile ahead of the ballot measure.
“The people who authorized that — the board members — are never going to be accountable to the citizens for spending their tax money on advertisements,” he said.
The district covers Denver and all or parts of Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties.