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In re Interrogatory on House Bill 21-1164.

2021 CO 34. No. 21SA97. TABOR—Public School Finance Act—TABOR Waivers—Voter Approval—Mill Levies.

May 24, 2021

This case implicates two Colorado Constitution provisions: the requirement that the legislature “provide for the establishment and maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state,” Colo. Const. art. IX, § 2; and the limitations set forth in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), Colo. Const. art. X, § 20.

Pursuant to Colo. Const. art. VI, § 3, the Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction to consider an interrogatory posed by the General Assembly:

Given that most school districts obtained voter approval to retain all excess property tax revenue but were required, without legal authority, to subsequently reduce their total program mill levies, can the General Assembly, having already mandated that those school districts reset their total program mill levies to the levels that would have been in effect but for the unauthorized reductions, now require such school districts to: (a) gradually eliminate the temporary property tax credits as provided in House Bill 21-1164; and (b) do so without again obtaining voter approval?

The Court concluded that the General Assembly may require the districts at issue to gradually eliminate the temporary tax credits as provided in House Bill 21-1164 without again obtaining voter approval. Here, school district voters previously approved waivers of the applicable TABOR limits; per the erroneous advice of the Colorado Department of Education, the school districts did not implement those waivers; and, in House Bill 21-1164, the General Assembly seeks to eliminate the tax credits at issue simply to effectuate what the voters had previously authorized. Under these circumstances, the Court perceives nothing in TABOR requiring further voter approval.

Accordingly, the Court answered the General Assembly’s two-part interrogatory in the affirmative.

Official Colorado Supreme Court proceedings can be found at the Colorado Supreme Court website.

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