‘Tax hike’ headline spurred angry phone calls from residents; 2012 tax bills will go down after mill rate adjustment
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Breckenridge officials took the unusual step of issuing a press release to correct information in a Nov. 9 Summit Daily New story originally headlined “Revenue dip has Breckenridge eyeing tax hike.”
In the online version, the newspaper used this headline: “Breckenridge gives initial green light on mill rate increase.”
After the story appeared, town officials started receiving phone calls from residents and property owners concerned about a possible tax hike, said town communication director Kim Dykstra-DiLallo. The town issued the statement to make it clear to residents and property owners that the council is not proposing a tax increase, which under Colorado law, can only occur with voter approval.
“We felt it was so blatantly wrong, we thought we had to address it,” she said, adding that Mayor John Warner may write a letter to the editor to set the record straight. “We needed to get a response out as soon as possible because it was making people angry,” she said, adding that the town council did not talk about a tax increase at the meeting referenced in the story, but did discuss an adjustment to the mill rate.
According to the town’s statement, “Both the front page headline and basis for the article are misleading and incorrect. In actuality, the Town of Breckenridge’s proposed property tax levy in 2012 will be $490,000 less than in 2011, and Breckenridge residents will see a decrease in the Town’s portion of the property tax … At no time during the Breckenridge Town Council meeting of November 8, 2011 was a ballot question or a tax increase discussed for 2012.”
At issue is the complex topic mill levies. Even if the mill rate increases, taxes don’t necessarily go up. It all depends on the value of the properties against which the mill levies are assessed. And in the case of Breckenridge, the actual amount of taxes to be paid will decrease in 2012.
Here’s how the town explained it in a prepared statement:
“The Town is projected to collect an estimated $4.04 million in property tax revenue in 2011 and $3.55 million in 2012. As an example, an owner of a $500,000 residential property within Town limits paid $276.41 in 2011 and will pay $243.92 in 2012 in Breckenridge property taxes, a decrease of 11.8%.
A portion of the Breckenridge property tax rate is calculated based on a formula approved by voters in 1998 to provide recreational facilities (i.e. indoor ice arena and expanded nine holes at golf course) to meet the needs of the residents and visitors. That formula, as illustrated by the example above, does not create a tax increase for 2012.”