Good news, bad news on mill levies

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Our economy is almost frozen in time at the moment. - STEVEN DEPOLO
  • Steven Depolo
  • Our economy is almost frozen in time at the moment.
Today, the El Paso County Assessor's Office is informing each taxing entity in the county the total valuation of all property in its taxation district. This figure is the one upon which property tax bills will be based that are issued in January.

For Colorado Springs and the County, it's a good news, bad news notification.

This year, the value of property in the city totals $4,636,060,080, compared to last year's total of $4,608,210,390.

That's an increase of $27.8 million, or less than 1 percent. The change represents new construction only. It does not include any change in value of existing property due to market fluctuations, because next year, not this year, is a reappraisal year for tax purposes.

The good news from those figures is that the city won't have to further reduce its property tax mill levy for next year's budget, because growth has been lower than the 5 percent limit imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. TABOR limits how much new revenue governments can collect.

Once a mill levy declines, the only way to make it go up again is with a vote of the people, due to TABOR's provisions. Twenty years ago, the city's mill levy was 6.869 mills. As property values rose and new construction resulted in the city collecting more revenue, TABOR, which became effective in the early 1990s, forced the city to reduce the mill levy.

Today, it stands at 4.279 mills, or 38 percent lower than 1994.

El Paso County is in the same boat. Last year, the county's valuation stood at $6,337,964,970. This year, it's $6,395,103,330. That's $57.1 million more this year than last, or just under 1 percent higher. 

The county's mill levy in 1994 was 12 mills. Today it stands at 7.714 mills, or 36 percent less than 20 years ago.

The bad news to all that is it's another indicator that our economy has stagnated.

But take heart. Assessor Mark Lowderman says the new reappraisal, which will affect tax bills mailed in January 2016, is showing some recovery. Residential property is running roughly 8 percent higher in value than the last reappraisal two years ago, and homes in some areas have gone up in value by up to 12 percent, he says.

"It looks like the single-family market is starting to recovery," he says.

But vacant land, commercial and industrial property remains flat, he adds.

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