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Aspen Public Radio's news coverage, interviews and public forums on the issues and the candidates of the 2016 elections in the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond. Want to learn about everything that will be on your ballot this election? Click here.

Basalt Area Homeowners Could See Biggest Tax Increase If Ballot Measures Pass


 We’ve reported this week, starting Monday October 21st, on the various tax increases proposed in measures in next month’s election.  If all of them and Amendment 66 pass it could be one of the most expensive recent elections for many mid-valley voters.  The question is how expensive

Reporter: This election is a confusing one, especially when trying to figure out what a voter’s total tax load would be… and we’ll get to that in a minute. First, arguably the most expensive measures are 4C and 4D, up for a vote in the mid-valley including Basalt and Old Snowmass. Voters there will decide if they want a recreation center at the Crown Mountain Park. If 4C and 4D pass, it would definitely mean a property tax increase for those residents.  Supporters use the figure of 5-dollars and 51-cents per month per 100-thousand dollars of a home’s value.  Critics use a percentage...like Katie did when she spoke to us earlier this week.

Katie Schwoerer: “I live in Basalt, so my taxes would increase by almost ten percent.”

Reporter: So, to find out if the dollar amount per month adds up to a 10 percent increase in property taxes. We asked Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac.

Tom Isaac: “Depending where the individual home is in the district, it could be a little more or a little less than a ten percent in addition to your overall property tax.”

Reporter: Here’s how it works. We looked at homes at a certain price, five hundred thousand dollars. According to Isaac, here’s how much measures 4C and 4D would increase the owner’s property taxes.

Tom Isaac: “On a five hundred thousand dollar house, the property tax would be three hundred and thirty dollars per year.”

Reporter: It’s important to keep in mind people pay different property taxes depending on where they live. But in general, Pitkin and Eagle County residents already pay around three thousand dollars in property taxes each year. So, if ballot issues 4C and 4D were to pass, residents in the Crown Mountain District could end up paying about ten percent more in property taxes. And, the result would put some Basalt voters… in Eagle and Pitkin counties… in the upper levels of property taxes compared to the average statewide. Again, Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac.

Isaac: “People need to consider really two issues. One, can they personally afford the increase in property tax. And two do they think building this rec center is in the best interest of the community.”

Reporter: This is especially true for business owners, who pay three times as much in property taxes than homeowners. So here’s the confusion we mentioned at the beginning of this story. One of the measures, 4D, doesn’t say exactly how much property taxes would go up. They’re being raised to cover new bonds, or debt, taken out by the Crown Mountain District. In fact, the county assessors Aspen Public Radio spoke with, at first came up with totally different  estimates for how much property taxes could go up. The reason is measure 4D is written to allow the District to raise property taxes later on without getting approval from voters.

A source knowledgeable on these matters pointed out that there’s a chance property taxes may have to go up even more. Or sometimes the financial company involved with the District could require the nebulous language. In fact, the investment banking firm who wrote measure 4D is in charge of helping to make sure the District’s new debt is sold. The firm declined to talk about why measure 4D does not include a specific property tax increase. The legal advisor for the Crown Mountain District stays the kind of debt in question requires an open ended property tax. Another item on the ballot for the Basalt area might mean a change in property taxes down the road. That’s ballot issue 2B, which asks voters whether to take out  bonds… increasing debt… to redevelop the Pan and Fork trailer park along the Roaring Fork River….a project Basalt officials say won’t raise taxes. Again, Pitkin County Assessor Tom Isaac.

Isaac: “It’s not asking for a tax increase at this time. If they’re not generating enough money, the town could come back to the property tax owners and ask for an increase later.”

Reporter: To understand a voter’s potential total tax burden, these local measures must be considered with the two statewide measures also on the ballot.  Those two would increase other kinds of taxes for everyone including residents in Basalt and the mid-valley.  One is Amendment 66, which would raise income taxes for school funding. For someone earning fifty thousand dollars, Amendment 66 would mean about a hundred dollars more in income taxes each year. Finally, voters have another tax measure to consider in November. Statewide, residents will decide whether to add taxes to retail marijuana. If all these measures pass, a voter in Basalt would see the biggest increase in taxes, compared to the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley. That’s hundreds more in residential property taxes… and a hundred dollars or more in income taxes.  It could even eat into a budget for legal marijuana.


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