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Our View: Back to work to reduce property taxes

The 60% of statewide voters in Colorado who said “no” to Proposition HH is a tough loss for Gov. Jared Polis, who was instrumental in this complex property tax fix. And although this paper did not endorse Prop. HH out of concern local counties and special districts would not be properly backfilled, we were a little surprised at the whipping at the polls.

In La Plata County, 55% voted “no.” In Montezuma County, 62% opposed Prop. HH.

But we have to hand it to Polis. He said let’s get back to work – now – calling a special session starting Nov. 17 as the electorate faces historic increases again in upcoming property tax bills.

What formula can adequately reduce property taxes? How to pay for all that needs funding, especially our schools? And can the revenue that comes in over the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights limit be distributed more fairly?

Prop. HH combined immediate property tax reductions and economic benefits with greater state spending under TABOR, including a priority for schools. Other parts we liked included transferable deductions for the elderly and the rental assistance

But Prop. HH was too multi-faceted, revealed too close to the election and too confusing to gain needed votes.

Likely viewed as the major negative, TABOR refunds, possible as long as the state’s economy is healthy, would have been reduced.

Locally, the Durango School District 9-R board supported Prop. HH. Understandable. La Plata County, with needed road improvements, stayed silent, along with the Durango Fire Protection District, which must pay for a major new building.

But in addition to uncertainty about backfilling, the administrative load on county clerks and what happens after 10 years, led us to say “no.” Our reason differed from conservatives who attacked Prop. HH for being what they called a hidden tax increase by using TABOR surplus dollars for local backfill.

The looming question is what’s the alternative for lower property taxes?

Property taxes are local taxes. It may be time to evaluate our own mill levies to coincide with all that’s happened to push home valuations through the roof.

Prop. HH wasn’t good enough. And state lawmakers have their hands full in figuring out a property tax relief package.

One thing we know. Something else must be done. We’re glad Polis shares this concern.