A couple weeks ago in this column, I warned homeowners that the current rise in home values means a proportionate increase in property valuations as of June 30, 2022, and therefore a likely rise in property taxes for 2023 and 2024.
I wrote that because of a typical 30% increase in what your home could have sold for on June 30, 2022, versus June 30, 2020, your property taxes could increase by 30%, but that didn’t take into account the effect of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which restricts how much revenue each tax jurisdiction can keep to population growth plus the increase in the cost of living.
Under TABOR, if a taxing jurisdiction collects more than that formula allows, it must refund the excess to the taxpayers.
However, many (but not all) jurisdictions obtained voter approval to keep any excess revenue. The term for this common ballot measure is “de-Brucing,” after Douglas Bruce, the author of TABOR.
All but two counties passed such ballot measures and won’t have to refund their excess revenues to taxpayers — or, more commonly, reduce their mill levies so they only collect the allowed amount of revenue. Jefferson County is one of those counties that has not de-Bruced, so Jeffco will likely reduce its mill levy for 2023 and 2024 to limit their property tax revenue despite the increase in valuations.
In any county, however, the biggest mill levy is that of the school district, and, again, most school districts, including Jeffco’s, have de-Bruced and can enjoy the coming windfall in revenue by not reducing their mill levies.
Any given property’s mill levy is the sum of individual mill levies from multiple taxing jurisdictions. You can see all those mill levies by looking for your property on the country assessor’s website. For example, in Jeffco, you’d go to http://propertysearch.jeffco.us. In other counties, just Google the county’s name + “assessor.”
For any given address, you’re likely to find between 5 and 15 different jurisdictions with individual mill levies. In unincorporated areas of Jefferson County, for example, you’ll find separate mill levies for the county, for Jeffco schools, for the country sheriff (“law enforcement”), for your local water district, local park district, local fire district, RTD, storm water and flood control district, etc.
As an aside, a lot of people think that “unincorporated” translates to lower property taxes, but the opposite is true. Consider the following: the West Metro Fire District, serving much of Lakewood, collects about 13.2 mills from property owners in its taxing district — and that’s just for fire protection. Meanwhile, the City of Golden’s current mill levy is less than that (12.34 mills) and includes all municipal services — fire, police, parks and recreation, and more. Golden may have higher real estate prices, but our real estate is taxed at a lower rate than in most other areas.