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A close-up shot of a ballot drop off box
A collection box stands outside the Denver Elections Division for the city's election Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Colorado’s Proposition HH packs a lot into a one-sentence ballot question.

It gives out tax relief by cutting local property taxes. It also takes tax relief away by reducing state taxpayer refunds.

It could be a financial boon to schools, but the tax cuts would come at the expense of other local government services.

And figuring out exactly what it would mean for your wallet and your community depends on a dozen different variables.

In the past few weeks, we’ve written extensively about the ins and outs of Proposition HH, the 10-year ballot measure championed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. The measure would cut property tax rates, boost school funding, replenish some local government losses and attempt to pay for it all by reducing state taxpayer refunds.

If you want to understand all the nuances, we’ve got you covered. We’ve written detailed explainers on how Proposition HH would work, what it would mean for public services and how the campaigns are misrepresenting its effects on property taxes and the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. We also did a reader Q&A.

But if you lack the state legislature’s apparent enthusiasm for complicated tax policy, that’s OK, too. We’ll try to break it down in simpler terms.

Here are the key things you should know about Proposition HH before you vote in the Nov. 7 election.

Prop. HH would cut property taxes.

Property values are going up an average of 40% in Colorado next year, which means a big jump in almost everyone’s property taxes.

Proposition HH won’t wipe that out completely, but it would lessen the increases that people see on their tax bills over the next 10 years.

What does that translate to in tax relief? That depends on how much you pay in taxes in the first place.

The state voter’s guide provides a rough starting point. If your home is worth $500,000, and you pay around 70 mills in local taxes, Legislative Council Staff estimates you could save $186 to $276 on the property taxes you would have owed next year, and $314 to $396 in 2025.

For an estimate tailored more closely to your household, try this calculator created by legislative staff.

Homeowners 65 and older stand to benefit even more. The measure would make an existing tax break for senior homeowners portable starting in 2025, meaning you don’t lose it if you move to a new home.

Of course, it’s even more complicated than that. To learn more about how Proposition HH affects property taxes, including how it could help renters, read our detailed explanation and our fact check of property tax claims.

Prop. HH would reduce TABOR refunds over time.

If Proposition HH passes, everyone would get a TABOR refund check of $832 in 2024.

For most Coloradans, that’s a larger refund than they would have received otherwise. It’s paid for by taking refund money away from those making more than $99,000 a year.

After one year, TABOR refunds would revert back to the usual system, in which higher earners get larger checks and lower earners get smaller ones.

But over time, everyone’s TABOR refunds would be reduced under Proposition HH. That’s because the measure raises the TABOR cap by an extra 1 percentage point each year, allowing the state to spend more of the money it collects rather than refund it to taxpayers.

For more, read our fact check on how it would affect TABOR refunds.

Prop. HH could increase funding for schools.

Could is the key word. It depends on economic conditions, but as long as the economy grows, Proposition HH sets up school districts to be the biggest winners of all.

For starters, the state would be required to fully replace the $800 million that schools would otherwise lose due to the measure’s property tax cuts over the first few years.

And thanks to the increase in the TABOR cap, Proposition HH could do far more than just cover the cost of the tax cuts. Over the first three years, the measure is projected to generate over $400 million in new money for schools, according to the state voter guide. Eventually, it could generate over $1 billion in additional school funding in a given year.

There are some caveats, which you can read about here. But in general, the better the economy does, the more that schools would stand to gain.

Prop. HH would cut funding for local governments.

Cities, counties and special districts would all lose money if Proposition HH passes.

The measure does provide for some partial repayments to local governments to make up for the property tax cuts. But unlike for school districts, the repayments are designed to go away within the first few years.

In year one, the total hit to local government budgets would be $240 million statewide. By 2025, that’s expected to grow to $500 million.

For more on how it would affect local government funding, read our full story.

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Brian Eason writes about the Colorado state budget, tax policy, PERA and housing. He's passionate about explaining how our government works, and why it often fails to serve the public interest. Topic expertise: Public finance, tax policy,...