by Cindy Johnson
If you own a home in Jefferson County, you know your home’s value has increased. Did you know the average home’s value increased over 22 percent from 2014 to 2016, according to the Jefferson County Assessor’s office? The total value of all residential properties increased from $56.9 billion in April 2015 to $83.02 billion in January 2016. According to a Denver Post article in January 2017, during this timeframe, Jefferson County had the highest percentage increase in residential property values among all Front Range counties. While some of that increase was the result of new homes being built, the average value of a single-family residence in 2014 was reportedly $267,335 while in 2016 it topped $325,000.
According to Zillow, the average value of a home in Jefferson County in September 2017 was over $390,000. While the rise in home values is a boon to the taxpayers’ net worth, the rise in taxes is hurting their cost of living.
Double digit percentage increases in home values also means a corresponding rise in cost of property taxes. According to the school district’s 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), the amount of local property taxes collected for the school district rose by over 13 percent between 2014 and 2016. And home prices are predicted to continue to rise throughout 2018. This means when the Jefferson County Assessor reappraises homes based on sales prices from 2016–2018 our property taxes are likely to see double-digit percentage increases again in 2018.
When our property taxes increase revenue for the school district also increases. According to the Colorado Department of Education’s Auditors Integrity Report, included as the last page in Jeffco’s CAFRs, the districts’ revenue rose over $84 million from 2014 to 2016.
How were those dollars allocated?
Nearly $60 million of the increase was put into reserves. Reserves are the district savings accounts which grew from $33 million in 2014 to almost $92 million in 2017. The majority of the rest of the $84 million was spent increasing compensation for district staff and increasing the number of administrators. In 2014, according to the district’s CAFR there were 559 administrators listed. In 2016 the number grew to 602 including Deans, a title the district began to use for administrators in 2015.
Despite this double-digit increase in revenue, in 2016 the Jeffco school board asked residents for an additional annual increase in property taxes of $33 million a year. The school board also asked residents to increases taxes in order to pay for an additional half billion dollars in debt. Homeowners would have had to spend nearly a billion dollars over the next 25 years to pay back the debt. Overwhelmingly Jeffco residents voted “no” to both tax increases.
The school board continues to say they need more revenue and yet there has been no mention of how increasing revenue will improve opportunities for students. In fact, this board hasn’t set any student achievement improvement goals nor are there any student achievement targets in the new superintendent’s contract.
The board continues to say there have been significant budget cuts—interesting vocabulary when revenue and spending have actually increased. What could the board possibly mean when they say that Jeffco has made budget cuts? It simply means revenue hasn’t increased by as much as they would like.
How much more does the board desire? How much more do they believe they need? There have been no answers to these questions. What we do know is that property values in Jeffco continue to increase which corresponds to increased taxes for homeowners and increased revenue for the district.