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What is Prop HH? A glimpse at the statewide ballot question

Posted at 7:48 PM, Oct 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 20:32:27-05

COLORADO — Odd-year elections or "off-year elections" typically don't bring out major voter turnout in Colorado, but the ballot typically comes with questions on how to spend your money.

2023, there are two statewide ballot initiatives, including Proposition HH, which has gained a lot of attention as it relates to property taxes and what to do with money typically refunded under the state's Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR).

There are a few issues packed into the ballot question but simply put, it's asking voters if they'd like to see some reform to try and lower property taxes and keep a portion of TABOR refunds.

Here's how it will appear on your ballot:

Shall the state reduce property taxes for homes and businesses, including expanding property tax relief for seniors, and backfill counties, water districts, fire districts, ambulance and hospital districts, and other local governments and fund school districts by using a portion of the state surplus up to the proposition HH cap as defined in this measure?

Nonpartisan researchers with the state have put together a calculator to help voters understand the financial impact on both their property taxes and TABOR refunds: Proposition HH Calculator.

"We as a state have some of the lowest property tax rates in the country, but our home values, as everybody in Colorado knows have been rising faster than the rest of the nation," Senator Nick Hinrichsen (Pueblo-D) said, "We’re doing reform in a responsible way so we can avoid any harm on the middle class while still being responsible stewards of public finances and adequately funding our public schools."

Hinrichsen was a sponsor of the bill that referred Proposition HH to the ballot, he and other supporters point to the rising values many homeowners in the state saw this year as a need for this relief.

"The end game here is that we ensure that our taxes are not pinching the middle and working class,” Hinrichsen said.

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If Proposition HH passes, TABOR refunds would increase for lower-income Coloradans and decrease for higher earners. TABOR refunds would also be equalized out for everyone, regardless of income.

"I think the biggest question a voter needs to ask is what would I be giving up in the form of a state refund under TABOR for property tax refund under Proposition HH?" Mark Flutcher, El Paso County assessor said.

Proposition HH would reduce property taxes by adding temporary reductions to a property's "assessed value" and the assessment rate, which are ultimately used to calculate how much someone owes in property taxes.

But first- a look at the property tax formula.

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Colorado Property Tax Formula

The formula used to calculate how much you owe in property taxes includes a few variables.
1. The Actual Value: This is the value determined by the County Assessor.
2. Assessment Rate: This rate is set by the state (it's the same for everyone in Colorado, depending on the type of property) and used to calculate the "assessed value." The rate for most businesses is 27.9% and currently, the rate for most homeowners is 6.76% (this is something that could change). In 2021, state lawmakers added more classifications for different assessment rates beyond "residential" and "non-residential."
3. Local Mill Levy: This is determined by the tax districts where you live which include county, city, school districts, and other services like the library district, water conservation, or any other taxing district.

Under Proposition HH, the assessed value and rate used to calculate it would change.

Here's a look at how those reductions would pan out over the next decade in Colorado.

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Estimates on property tax reductions for homeowners under Proposition HH.

Property owners for non-residential property would also see reductions as well.

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Estimates on property tax reductions for homeowners under Proposition HH.

Among the reductions in taxable value and impact on TABOR refunds, Proposition HH would also make additional changes to property taxes in Colorado and how much money local governments can collect.

Proposition HH would also make the Senior Homestead Exemption Transferable: this is a property tax reduction for seniors who have owned their homes for at least ten years. This would allow seniors to transfer that reduction to another property.

Still need more? Colorado Blue Book (comprehensive guide from state researchers on statewide ballot issues)

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