The County Cubicle: Property taxes … minding the mills

Editor’s note: In an effort to keep residents informed on happenings within county government, county employees will contribute biweekly articles for “The County Cubicle.”
These articles may include responses to reader questions or expression of interest. Readers are encouraged to submit questions or suggestions to County Administrator Pat Hooker at 878-9436 or phooker@co.rio-blanco.co.us

With all the talk about high taxes lately, you may not have realized Rio Blanco County’s property tax mill levy is one of the lowest in the state of Colorado … sixth lowest out of the 64 counties in the state. The property taxes you pay support not only the county government, but also 27 other voter-approved taxing entities within the county.
Seven of the taxing entities are those you would typically consider government functions including county government, three school districts, Colorado Northwestern Community College and the towns of Meeker and Rangely. The remaining 21 are referred to as “special” districts, such as water conservancy, cemetery, sanitation, fire, park and recreation, hospital, soil and pest control. The establishment of each of these districts and their respective mill levies were approved by the voters of Rio Blanco County. Each taxing entity may lower their mill levy. However, an increase in the mill levy requires voter approval.
The mill levies for all of these 28 districts range from a high of 29.908 mills to a low of 0.037 mills. However, no property owner pays into all 28 districts. The mill levy that applies to your real property depends on where it’s located. For example, if you own real property in the town of Rangely, your property is subject to a levy of approximately 45 mills. If you own real property in the town of Meeker, your property is subject to a levy of approximately 58 mills. In both cases, the county government mill levy is 9.050 mills.
County government is not the top taxing entity in the county. With a mill levy of 9.050 mills, county government ranks fifth from the top. So what does this mean in terms of funds county government retains to support county operations?
In the town of Rangely (45 mills), using an example of $10,000 in taxable/assessed value (which should not be confused with appraised value), the total revenue collected by the county treasurer for distribution to all taxing entities would be approximately $450. Of this, county government would receive $90.50. All remaining revenue (approximately $359.50 in this example) is distributed to the other entities based upon their respective mill levy. Using the same $10,000 in taxable/assessed value for the town of Meeker (58 mills), the total revenue collected by the county treasurer would be approximately $580, with $90.50 retained by county government and the remaining $489.50 distributed to the other taxing entities.
The appraised value of a piece of property is “taxed” at the rate established for the specific type of property by the state of Colorado as mandated by the Gallagher Amendment, which was approved by Colorado voters in 1982. The Gallagher Amendment mandates a tax rate of 7.96 percent currently for residential property and 29 percent for all other non-residential properties including commercial and industrial. The appraised value multiplied by the tax rate results in the taxable/assessed value on which the appropriate mill levy is applied. The Gallagher Amendment also requires the total property tax burden to be split between residential properties (45 percent) and commercial and industrial properties (55 percent). The Colorado Legislature adjusts the rates annually to maintain this balance.
Questions concerning this article should be directed to the appropriate county government office, or by calling the county commissioners’ office at 878-9430.