Local Government Panel
INTERIM COMMISSION TO STUDY FISCAL STABILITY
|Votes: View--> ||Action Taken: |
01:34 PM -- Local Government Panel
The commission reconvened.
Senator Heath recognized Ms. Carol Boigon, a member of the commission who joined the meeting. Ms. Boigon currently serves on the Denver City Council. Commission members also received a copy of a Wall Street Journal article from Commissioner Marty Neilson entitled "Golden State Opportunity," which is included as Attachment K.
Mr. Sam Mamet, representing the Colorado Municipal League, distributed a handout from the organization with information about cities in Colorado, including a report about the future of municipal financing and a February 2009 report on the state of Colorado's cities and towns. This information is included as Attachment L, and the reports are also posted on the commission's website. Mr. Mamet stated that local governments would like to work with the commission about fiscal issues.
Mr. Mamet highlighted the report that the Colorado Municipal League conducted about the state of cities and counties in Colorado. The report focuses on four areas, he explained, including energy, economic development, transportation, and water and wastewater. He shared his thoughts about the long-term situation for cities and counties.
Ms. Mary Zuchegno, representing the Special District Association of Colorado, provided information about these districts. She distributed a handout entitled "Legislator's Guide to Special Districts" (Attachment M). She shared her thoughts on tax collections for small businesses and individuals. Ms. Zuchegno also stated that the Special Districts Association is here to help the commission and provide information when it is needed.
Mr. Chip Taylor, representing Colorado Counties, Inc. (CCI), explained that county governments are a unified voice with the other local government organizations. Mr. Taylor stated that local governments are facing challenging fiscal issues. He shared his thoughts on the county-state relationship. There are things that make counties distinct, he explained, and counties do not have the plenary power of the state, which means they must often have to look for specific statutory authorization for certain actions. Eminent domain is an example of this for counties, he stated.
Mr. Taylor explained that counties are also administrative arms of government, and serve local and urban locations. Counties are as diverse as the rest of the state with respect to revenue, population, and other issues. Mr. Taylor provided examples of functions of county governments, including property tax assessments, the administration of driver's licenses, and the collection of specific ownership taxes. Mr. Taylor also discussed other services that county governments provide.
Mr. Taylor continued his presentation by providing background information about revenue sources for county governments. All counties, he explained, levy a property tax and many others levy sales taxes. Property taxes account for 50 percent of the revenue. He discussed Gallagher and the residential property tax assessment ratio. He also explained that county governments are subject to the same constitutional spending limits and that counties are subject to a separate non-constitutional statutory waiver limit on property taxes. Mr. Taylor also discussed the business personal property tax and the sales tax.
Mr. Taylor continued, explaining that counties are concerned about long-term fiscal stability. He provided background information about property tax assessments and the current economic conditions. He explained that 46 counties have applied for spending limit and revenue limit waivers under TABOR. Waivers do not generate revenues, but instead allow county governments to collect revenue that is already coming in, he stated.
Mr. Taylor provided background information about a recent session about counties in crisis. Refinancing debt and retirement benefits were among the issues examined at this conference. Mr. Taylor stated that he looks forward to working with the commission.
The panel responded to questions from commission members about enterprise zones and the effectiveness of these designations.
Ms. Zuchegno, Special District Association, responded to questions about the growth of special districts. She explained that population growth is increasing the number of special districts. It is difficult for local governments to increase taxes, and special districts are a way to levy a tax to pay for public services. Metro districts will form, she explained, due to phased-out developments, and often local governments consolidate as the areas grow.
Mr. Mamet, Colorado Municipal League, responded to questions from the commission about revenue sharing. He shared his thoughts about a potential revenue sharing arrangement with the state. Mr. Taylor also shared his thoughts about revenue sharing and local tax issues.
The panel continued responding to questions about zero-based budgeting. Mr. Taylor, CCI, responded that he did not know how many counties were using zero-based budgeting. Mr. Mamet also responded that county governments are looking at ways to develop indicators about services and government.
Ms. Zuchegno responded to questions about the process for forming a special district. The panel also responded to questions about what constituents are telling local governments. Mr. Taylor shared his thoughts about how county clerks and other officials are more likely to hear complaints than praise. In addition, these officials hear from the public about car registration fees and other issues. Discussion ensued about the numbers of local government units and the numbers of special districts.
The panel responded to questions about the costs of collecting sales taxes. Discussion ensued about the loss of revenue from the vendor fee, and the cost that is offset by county governments.
Mr. Mamet shared his thoughts about increasing registration fees for vehicles. In addition, the panel responded to questions about improving public assistance for human service programs.
The panel responded to questions about special district services and how these local governments are administered. Ms. Zuchegno provided background information about the organization and revenue collections of special districts. In addition, Ms. Zuchegno responded to questions about special district elections and the cost-effectiveness of administering them.
The commission recessed until 2:45 p.m.