LETTER: The money Gallagher saves residential taxpayers isn’t pocket change

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Editor: The Blue Book just arrived at our home. The first line of “Amendment B: Repeal Gallagher Amendment,” states “without increasing property tax rates.” That is deceitful. If it passes, I figure each home in Colorado will be taxed an additional $122 per $100,000 in value—a total of over $203 million.

Forty years ago, voters passed Gallagher to insure commercial interests pay their fair share of property taxes for our schools and local governments. Has it worked? It has saved residential taxpayers, including renters, an estimated $35 billion. That’s not pocket change. To estimate your tax without Gallagher, multiply your current tax by three. A modest home like mine would have to pay over $10,000. Does that scare you? It scares me.

But my big concern is the last line in the Ballot Title, “and repeal the non-residential property tax assessment rate of 29%…”. This will turn loose big business and oil and gas lobbyists to seek even more favorable tax treatments.

On Blue Book Page 8 and 9, two charts suggest business taxpayers like oil and gas pay four times as much as homeowners and renters. Unfortunately, those charts are untrue for big business, mostly owned by out of state investors. They get very favorable tax treatment under our current assessing process.

Ask yourself:

Why does a major industrial plant in Boulder County pay a property tax of 15 cents per square foot, while a home a mile away, built at about the same time, pays 59 cents? If the plant paid at the rate implied in the Blue Book, they would be paying over $2.00. Why are they underpaying their tax by over $10 million dollars?

Why is a major Colorado Springs resort valued at only $81 million, when the current owner paid over a billion dollars just 10 years ago?

Why is a readymix plant in Fort Collins valued at a third of what my 1,800 sq ft house is valued?

Why are a meat processing plant in Weld County and a steel mill in Pueblo County also undervalued? How much are the hotels in downtown Denver being under-valued? How much are all those oil and gas operations under-valued?

Some may disagree with my figures, but they are more accurate than those in the Blue Book. All these assessment values are technically legal, and none of the County Assessors is at fault for an assessment process that favors big business, shifts taxes to small businesses, and deprives our schools and local governments.

By voting NO on Amendment B, you will preserve Gallagher and the 29% mandatory assessment rate for commercial properties. In our next legislature, we can change the processes used by oil and gas and big business to get such favorable tax treatment and make sure they pay their fair share, and make sure any extra taxes are wisely spent.

— Robert Hullinghorst, via [email protected] 

Robert Hullinghorst is a former Boulder County Treasurer