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Colorado House Backs Bill To Cut Property Taxes

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A bill already approved by the Colorado House and awaiting action last week in the Senate would both reduce property taxes and provide new money for the state's schools.

Backers of the measure also have expressed hope that its passage would reduce public support for a constitutional amendment to place a cap on property taxes, which will appear on the November ballot.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Chris Paulson, a Republican from Englewood, calls for school districts to change the start of their budget years beginning in 19924from Jan. 1 to July 1 to coincide with the state fiscal year.

During the first six months of that year, districts would pay their operating costs out of property-tax revenue alone, receiving no direct state aid. Districts that could not meet expenses would continue to receive a small amount of state aid. At the same time, the state would invest some $300 million that normally would have gone to districts.

After July 1, the state would again begin distributing funds to districts, increasing its contribution by $70 million a year for five years. At the same time, the state would reduce and then stabilize property-tax mill levies.

Standard levies could be reduced by 2 mills statewide, said Randy Quinn, executive director of the Colorado Association of School Boards.

"We support the concept of the bill," he said.

However, Douglas Bruce, a Colorado Springs lawyer who authored the ballot initiative to limit property taxes, said the complicated proposal is an attempt to "fool people" into believing they are getting a tax break.

"It is just an accounting gimmick," he said, "It doesn't reduce anyone's taxes.,"

Mr. Bruce's proposed Amendment 1 would cap property taxes at 1 percent of market value for residential property and 2 percent for nonresidential property. It would also require voter approval for future property-tax increases.

Voters defeated a similar measure proposed by Mr. Bruce in 1988. (See Education Week, Nov. 16, 1988.)

Mr. Bruce thinks the initiative will pass this year, however, because the amendment has been modified and gives state officials greater leeway in implementing tax limitation, he said.--mw

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