Basalt recently discovered it has been erroneously collecting property taxes from its residents. The town might need to refund its residents around $2 million it shouldn’t have collected.
In the 1990s, property values in Basalt were growing, and the town council at the time decided to lower the mill levy, or the rate at which property is taxed, to keep the town’s revenue consistent.
The town returned money to residents it felt it didn’t need.
According to Ryan Mahoney, Basalt’s current town manager, this changed in 2010. Property values were falling, hurting the town’s budget, and the council voted to increase the mill levy.
This was the mistake, Mahoney says. Lowering a mill levy is one thing, raising it is another.
"You can bring it down all you want, but the minute you start to increase it, then you would have to go to a vote of the people," he said.
Becasue there wasn’t a vote, Basalt has been violating the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), which says any tax increase needs voter approval.
Mahoney doesn’t know how this mistake wasn’t caught earlier, but says Basalt might put a ballot question to voters this fall, asking to let bygones be bygones: Letting the town keep what it's collected, and maintain the current mill levy.
Mahoney says this is the first time he’s seen a violation of TABOR of this magnitude in his career.