Three statewide ballot initiatives have Boulder's finance officials on edge because they estimate the measures could affect the city's budget by up to $26.5 million.

At Tuesday night's City Council study session, Bob Eichem, Boulder's finance manager, plans to warn the elected leaders that state Proposition 101, Amendment 60 and Amendment 61 could lead to the city's budget taking a hit of $15 million to $26.5 million by 2014.

Proposition 101 is a statutory change that would reduce vehicle taxes and fees and state income taxes. It would also eliminate telecommunication taxes. Eichem said that measure alone would do away with $7.5 million in revenue to Boulder within four years.

Amendment 60 would change the state constitution to require voters to approve all property tax increases and would limit any new increases in property tax to 10 years. Any previously approved exceptions to the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights would also be eliminated.

Eichem said the amendment would require entities, such as municipal water or housing authorities, to pay property taxes for the first time. But just how much they'd pay isn't known.

"It isn't real clear," Eichem said. "It just says they'll pay taxes."

The costs would likely be passed on to customers through utility bills, he said.

The estimated impact on Boulder's annual budget would be about $7.9 million, according to Eichem.


Advertisement

Amendment 61 is another constitutional amendment, which seeks to prohibit the state from borrowing money and places new restrictions on all types of borrowing for local governments.

Specifically, local governments would have to ask voters for permission every time they want to take out a loan or go into debt. Eichem said there are still questions about whether that would mean asking voters for even simple changes such as water rates.

The full impact of that measure also isn't yet known, but Eichem said it could top more than $11 million a year.

Proponents of the three measures say they are designed to protect residents from higher taxes and fees.

While the city was forced to cut about $5 million from its budget this year to make up for lost revenue, the combined effect of the three state initiatives could more than triple the amount of cuts the city has to make in the near future, Eichem said.

Still, Eichem said it's up to the council to decide how to handle the state measures, and how far to take tax increases to fill any gaps.

"Right now, it's at the awareness stage," Eichem said. "What I do see is that it would make it very challenging for long-range planning" should any of the state questions be approved.

Gov. Bill Ritter has come out strongly against all three measures.

In his January State of the State address, Ritter called the questions "three of the most backward-thinking ballot measures this state has ever seen."

"Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 would shut down colleges and prisons, increase class sizes, put thousands of teachers out of work and prevent the repair of unsafe roads and bridges," he said. "If these measures pass, the state could never again support building another public school, library or rec center."

Megan Castle, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said Monday that Ritter remains committed to their defeat.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or urieh@dailycamera.com.