Attorney General Concerned By Provisions In The 2009 School Finance Act To Penalize School Districts That Re-Bruce

DENVER — Attorney General John Suthers said he is troubled by provisions in the proposed 2009 School Finance Act, Senate Bill 256, that would penalize school districts that reinstate their revenue caps to keep property tax rates low.

“Now that the voters have a chance to cast an informed vote about whether they want to see their property taxes increase, the Legislature wants to punish them if they vote in favor of lower taxes,” Suthers said.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the mill levy freeze passed by the Legislature in 2007, which prevents schools district property tax rates from falling when they otherwise would have, was constitutional. The court said when 174 school districts voted to allow those districts to retain revenues above the caps set forth in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, they effectively — even though unknowingly — allowed the districts to increase their property tax collections.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today represents a fundamental erosion of Colorado taxpayers’ rights,” Suthers said at the time.

Suthers said the provision included in Senate Bill 256, introduced Monday, would penalize school districts whose residents vote to allow their property tax rates to return to previous levels by effectively freezing their state funding levels. As a result, re-Bruced school districts would see their per pupil funding levels fall as their local property tax collections fall and their state funding level remains fixed.

“I would encourage the Legislature to strip this provision out Senate Bill 256,” Suthers said. “The Supreme Court’s decision eroded the voters’ rights to decide when their property taxes go up. It would be a shame to see the Legislature penalize children when informed voters exercise their right to choose lower property taxes.

“I understand the Legislature’s goal to have property taxes fund a greater slice of the cost of public education, but they created this problem by not allowing the state’s voters to cast an informed vote on whether to raise property taxes in the first place.”

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