CommunityGovernmentNews

Low Gilpin taxes tied to gaming taxes

County Management

By Roger Baker

Property taxes were due (if paid in full) April 30, and notices of valuation just were mailed out to Gilpin County homeowners May 1, so it might be a good time to reflect on exactly what taxes are collected in Gilpin County.

The first thing to realize is that property tax rates in Gilpin County are, by any measure, extraordinarily low compared to our neighboring jurisdictions.

The Gilpin County mill levy is just a tiny fraction over 10 mills, which is the basic measure of property tax collections. In Clear Creek County, by comparison, the mill levy is over 36. So for houses of equal value, the Clear Creek homeowner pays 3½ times as much in property tax.

But trying to make a fair, apples-to apples comparison, the Gilpin County situation is even more favorable. Clear Creek taxes an additional 2 mills for its recreation district, and another 2 mills for the library district; both of these are included in the Gilpin County levy. So now we’re up to over 40 mills for Clear Creek County, or a levy four times higher than Gilpin’s.

Things get even more complicated when one figures that the Clear Creek Emergency Services General Improvement District adds another 4.5 mills; certainly that includes some services we don’t have here, but the ambulance service in Gilpin is provided through an authority jointly funded by Black Hawk, Central City and the County, at no additional cost to the taxpayers.

The cities have their own mill levies – though in Black Hawk it is minuscule – but of course they also have taxes of various sorts on the casinos to fund operations.

The County also benefits from the casinos, though. First of all, the large amount of commercially assessed property in the County (we usually have the highest percentage in the state) is assessed at a much higher rate than residential property, so that 10 mills produces a whole lot more tax money than it would levied solely on the 2,500 or so houses in the County.

Even more, the amendment that legalized limited stakes gaming in the two cites (and Cripple Creek, we mustn’t forget), prescribed that the counties, as well as the cities, would receive a share of the gaming taxes, allocated among the entities according to the “gaming revenues” generated in each of the jurisdictions.

And although we have a profound disagreement with the Division of Gaming about that allocation formula (we think they’re doing it wrong), there’s no denying that we receive an incredible benefit from those gaming taxes.

That’s why Commissioner Schmalz and I headed down to Golden Thursday to testify at the annual hearings before the Gaming Commission where the tax rates are set. There was quite a bit of fluctuation in the rates in the first few years of gaming, as the Commission struggled to find rates that were fair to both large and small casinos, and would produce revenue for the state in sufficient amounts.

That last calculation is important, too – a few years ago, when the recession hit and casino revenues virtually flatlined – the Commission tried to provide some relief by lowering tax rates by 5%.

But of course, that decreased the amount the state received at a time when it, too, was coping with the effects of the recession, so the decision to lower the taxes was not well received – in fact, Governor Hickenlooper removed the entire Commission and appointed new members.

I assume the gaming tax rates will remain the same, and I don’t expect that County taxes will change any time soon either. And that’s good.

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