Loveland's Independent News Source
Council's Laissez-faire Metro District
Politics Creating Backlash from Schools
Loveland, July 22, 2017

Once in a decade or two the tectonic plates that define Loveland's politics begin to shift often
swallowing the ambitions of local politicians in the process as they scamper for solid ground
between the newly opened fissures in the political landscape.  We are currently witnessing just
such a shift with metro districts at the epicenter.

Following the second failure of the Thompson School District's
bond proposals by over 55% in
the case of 3E in 2016, a careful analysis was done on a precinct by precinct level to determine
why a popularly elected board of education cannot raise enough public support to pass a bond
measure to raise property taxes as required under TABOR (
Taxpayers Bill of Rights).  The
Thompson School District discovered much of their campaign regarding "modest" property tax
increases on top of already relatively low property tax rates fell on deaf ears in certain precincts
bordering others where it received significantly more support from a nearly identical

Not surprisingly, those who reside in Loveland's more than a dozen metro districts (also called
special districts) voted in greater numbers to defeat the school's most recent ballot measures
seeking additional property taxes.  That is because property tax rates within metro districts are
considerably higher, across Colorado about 1% of their residential property's value, thus
homeowners and especially commercial property owners are reticent to even pay more when
they are already paying often significantly high mill levies associated with their metro district.

In other words, Loveland's largest single employer, the Thompson School District is turning its
attention towards metro districts and the local politicians who created them.   Many, including
Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez, find themselves in the precarious position of having one foot
firmly planted on both sides of the growing chasm; one in the schools from which he retired and
receives significant support and the other in Loveland's most influential special interest; the
McWhinney brothers who control Centerra's metro districts.

Disparity Between Those Inside and Outside of Metro Districts

According to Attom Data Solutions, the average property tax paid by American home owners in
the United States was $3,296 in 2016 or about 1.15% of their property value.  In Larimer
County, according to Attom Data Solutions, the average property taxes paid in 2016 for
residential property was only .48% of the property's value.  

In Loveland property taxes can be double in a metro district versus those properties outside the
district.  Prior to the passage of TABOR, local school boards and other special taxing districts had
the authority to raise taxes by a vote of the elected governing body.  TABOR changed all that by
requiring a vote by the impacted taxpayers before an increase could be implemented.

Developers found a way around TABOR by holding the election before the property is
developed.  For example, 100 acres owned by a single person where nobody resides (like ag
land) is an election of one - the owner.  In the case of Centerra the TABOR election placed up to
72 mills on Centerra District 2 properties where the McWhinney brothers are currently
collecting 35 mills.  However, recent extensions of their debt limit, extending time to repay and
compounding interest rights for the debt holder of the $186,000,000 owed all point towards an
unavoidable and historically high property tax increase for commercial Centerra property

When Residential Metro Districts Fail - Double Dipping

In February of last year Loveland's City Council approved the Lee Farms Metro District that will
impose two additional mill levies on its some 700 housing units totalling 65 additional mills.  In
addition, the resolution passed by council allows the developer to "double dip" by setting up an
HOA on top of the already burdensome maintenance district (15 mills) and improvement
district (50 mills) taxes.  Despite being briefed by staff that the developer will not establish an
HOA on top of their metro district, that is what they allowed by the resolution passed.

In early July a group of experts were assembled to provide Loveland's City Council more
information on metro districts and guide them in creating a policy for the city going forward.  
Pressure to craft an overall policy regarding metro districts is coming largely from the
Thompson Board of Education and their supporters who are seeking cooperation from their
allies on Loveland's City Council; primarily Gutierrez, Leah Johnson, Richard Ball, Joan Shaffer
and John Fogle.

Conspicuously absent from the council's July 11 study session was any staff information on
Deer Meadows Metro District that failed in 2012 leaving two improved lots to carry
the burden of the property and eventual bankruptcy.  One speaker, a representative of the
Thompson School District, was careful not to express an official position either for or against new
metro districts on behalf of the board but nonetheless proceeded to show viewgraphs claiming
local schools lost $9.6 million to metro districts last year.

During another recent council meeting where Lakeside Metro District board was trying to talk
Loveland's council into approving an extension of their debt to lower payments, Mayor Cecil
Gutierrez made an interesting comment.  He alluded to Centerra's debt as an obstacle for the
school bond indicating he is already trying to jump that chasm leaving his unabashed support
for Centerra behind him.  Ironically, whether the proposed extension of debt payments by the
homeowners will last longer than the life of the improvements it was used to finance was not