Dec 1, 2023 - News

Gov. Polis presses local governments to cut property taxes

Illustration of a house stuffed to the brim with money, with some bills sticking out from the roof.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Colorado's governor is campaigning to get local governments and school districts to lower property taxes in their communities, saying "the opportunity to provide meaningful property tax relief … lies with you."

Why it matters: The political pressure — delivered in public events, letters and social media posts — is designed to shift the conversation about property taxes to the local authorities benefiting from the new revenue after the governor's failed ballot initiative.

What he's saying: "We at the state level can't really microengineer a statewide solution for everyone — that's why it's in the hands of local elected officials," Gov. Jared Polis told Axios Denver in an interview Thursday.

State of play: Colorado homeowners are facing an average property tax hike of 40% on their 2023 bills because of rising values.

  • The governor signed legislation from a special session in November to temporarily lower the assessment rate and exempt the first $55,000 of a house's value.
  • Now he's acknowledging it didn't go far enough.

What's new: Before tax bills are finalized in the coming weeks, Polis is calling on taxing entities — local governments, more than 4,000 special districts and schools — to temporarily reduce their mill levies that determine property tax levels, as outlined in the new law.

  • "You also have districts that have 40-50-60% increases, and those are the ones that I really hope they look at their budget and say … 'Did our costs really go up by 40% in two years?' Probably not," Polis said.

The intrigue: In the interview, he praised conservative Douglas County for lowering their assessment rates by $28 million and providing an average savings of $223 to homeowners.

  • He traveled to Breckenridge on Thursday to tout the Colorado Mountain College six-county special district's decision to keep their mill levy near inflation.

Of note: Denver — the state's largest city and home to its biggest school district — doesn't seem enthused.

  • Mayor Mike Johnston, three city council members and three school board members did not return messages from Axios Denver about whether they would heed the governor's call.

Between the lines: The governor's use of the bully pulpit to antagonize local elected officials is reviving hostilities from earlier in the year when he pushed a land-use bill that counties opposed. Polis lost that battle.

  • Asked if he's worried about heightened tensions ahead of the legislative session, he demurred.
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