This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, July 26, 2000

July 26, 2000 - Taxcut 2000

On the ballot this fall is something called Taxcut 2000. This constitutional amendment, drafted by Doug Bruce, would (among other things) reduce each item appearing on a property tax bill, throughout the state of Colorado, by $25 the first year.

Even if Douglas County residents vote against the measure, the rest of the state could pass it. If so, Douglas Public Library District would lose $2 million from its budget the first year. That's 25% of our total income.

But the proposal doesn't stop there. The following year, the tax cut rises to $50. The next year, the cut climbs again to $75. It continues from there until, at least in the case of property tax, the bill drops to zero.

Taxcut 2000 affects many entities. Among these are water and sanitation districts, fire districts, cemeteries, and metropolitan districts. Some of these districts don't assess as much as $25 on a house.

Apparently, the state is expected to pick up the difference, but there are three catches. First, the state's income will also drop (progressive cuts also apply to income and sales tax, although this might be offset by economic growth for a time). Second, the state is still subject to TABOR, and pre-existing tax limitations. The state currently has a surplus, but it can't spend it, even to bail out other services.

Third, the state can limit how much it chooses to replace from lost local revenue. With water service and fire protection on the chopping block, how much can libraries expect from dwindling state resources?

This initiative will be on the ballot this fall, just in time for the Presidential election. That means a high turn-out. Historically, that group includes some of the least informed voters. That means many people will see the measure for the first time at the ballot box.

To date, I've seen very little information about Taxcut 2000 in the media, although I've read a few of Doug Bruce's statements. That may be because Bruce's ballot language, as with TABOR, is so convoluted that nobody is sure what all the implications are.

For instance, some government entities may be able to become "enterprises" -- for instance, water districts may simply raise their fees for service, offsetting revenue losses. If so, it's hard to see how the taxpayer benefits.

In any case, that road probably isn't open to libraries. By the second year of the cut, I believe it will be impossible to maintain the current level of services. (The first year, we would probably use savings previously dedicated to capital projects. Under the threat of further cuts, of course, any further capital construction would seem irresponsible. Why build a library you can't afford to open?)

It appears that even if Douglas County residents wanted to exempt library funding from the tax cut, that is not permitted. In other words, the whole state is voting on whether to prohibit LOCAL tax efforts, the burden of which is solely supported by local residents.

Before I came to Colorado, I worked for a library that had to cut its budget by 10% for three years in a row. While that was useful training for a library administrator -- it teaches you what matters in the attempt to provide core services -- it was also excruciating.

It took ten years to build this district. It wouldn't take that long to destroy it.

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