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Property tax commission recommends tweaks as ballot proposal battle heats up

A bipartisan group of Colorado policymakers approved nearly a dozen recommendations to soften the pinch of property tax increases Friday, including an “adjustable cap” on future hikes and mechanisms to spread out hefty tax bills.

The recommendations approved by the Property Tax Commission will go to lawmakers for possible legislation in the coming weeks as state leaders continue to grapple with structural issues challenging Colorado’s property tax system. The commission was formed during the November special session after a ballot measure aimed at long-term reform to property taxes, and backed by Gov. Jared Polis, failed at the polls.

Lawmakers also expanded other efforts aimed at blunting property tax increases during the post-election session.

“I think we can build off the progress that we had last year in the legislature, and the recommendations that we just finalized really provide us a nice road map forward on the work we can do between now and the end of session,” Sen. Chris Hansen, a Denver Democrat who led the commission, said Friday.

In all, the commission — a 19-member body of lawmakers, county commissioners, assessors and other officials — approved 11 of the 12 recommendations its members considered Friday. They include:

Extending existing property tax relief from November’s special session for another year and possibly beyond.
An “adjustable cap” on property tax increases that fluctuates based on factors such as inflation and population growth inflation.
Allowing taxpayers to pay their bill in 12 monthly payments.
Expanding the state’s property tax deferral program.
A handful of studies to inform future property tax policymaking, including examining relief targeted at lower-income residents and small businesses.
Stepping down assessment rates for vacant and nonresidential properties.

After voters rejected Proposition HH in November, Polis requested a “blue-ribbon” commission be created to provide a long-term solution to rising property taxes.

The commission didn’t make its recommendations in a vacuum. The state’s title board, which reviews potential ballot initiatives, is considering a slew of competing measures dealing with property taxes.

One, which would set a hard cap on tax increases, regardless of the property’s increase in assessed value, has been approved for the November ballot.

Those ballot measures hung heavy over the commission Friday. Members repeatedly said they needed to show they were taking steps to address property tax increases or voters may impose a cap on them, come November.

State Rep. Lisa Frizell, a Castle Rock Republican, said there’s still work to do, but she largely supported where the commission landed. She noted that the recommendations still need to go through two legislative chambers and the governor before becoming law.

“We have 2024 settled, and I think I’m comfortable with that,” she said. “Now we have to figure out the long term.”

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