(The Center Square) – A group of residents on the Eastern Plains are suing a local water district over a tax increase from 2019 that the group argues is unconstitutional.
According to the lawsuit filed in the Logan County District Court, the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District (LSPWCD) tax rate increase doubled its mill levy from 0.5 mills to 1 mill without voter approval, which is required under the state constitution's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR).
The plaintiffs argue in the lawsuit that the tax increase is therefore unconstitutional since it wasn't approved by voters. The district collected the higher mill levies both this year and last year, according to the lawsuit.
The Public Trust Institute, a public interest law firm representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement that LSPWCD officials have pointed to a referendum from 1996 allowing for the increase without voter approval. The Washington, D.C.-based National Taxpayers Union Foundation is also representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
LSPWCD, which encompasses parts of Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick and Washington counties on Colorado's Eastern Plains, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“It’s a shame that we have to go to court to enforce our basic taxpayer rights under the state constitution, but the water district believes it can write its own laws,” Jack Darnell, former mayor of Fort Morgan, said in a statement. “Even worse is that they point to a twenty-five-year-old vote as a fig leaf and that very referendum says specifically that they won’t raise taxes without a vote.”
Jim Aranci, one of the plaintiffs from Logan County, echoed that the district needs voter approval if it wants a tax increase.
“That’s the clearest requirement in TABOR, and their action shows a blatant disrespect for the taxpayers they are supposed to serve,” he said in a statement.