Rising mill levy funds boosting coffers, concerns across county

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— Some Routt County taxing entities are seeing massive budget increases this year from escalating property tax revenues, creating a controversial windfall that is expanding the scope of local services but also raising concerns about the use of taxpayer dollars.

From new fire engines to increased programming for those with developmental disabilities, rising mill levy revenues will be put to noble causes. While virtually no one argues that value, there are widespread concerns about unrestrained taxes that are boosting the budgets - in some cases, by hundreds of thousands of dollars - of taxing entities across Routt County.

For example, Horizons Specialized Services collects 1 mill of property taxes countywide to provide services for those with developmental disabilities. On just that 1 mill, Horizons will collect $1,093,543 from Routt County taxpayers in 2008, a 34 percent increase from the $812,913 it collected last year.

The growth is even larger in smaller taxing districts whose appreciation has outpaced the county as a whole. Colorado Mountain College, which collects property tax only in Steamboat Springs, will see the revenues it collects on nearly 4 mills rise from $2,555,646 in 2007 to $3,543,311 in 2008, a 39 percent increase.

By comparison, the county's base property tax will increase only 6 percent.

A mill is $1 of tax per every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Routt County properties were reappraised in 2007 to reflect values as of June 30, 2006. It is this appraisal that will determine property taxes collected in 2008. The county's overall assessed valuation has increased 34 percent since the last appraisal, but not all taxing entities' revenues will increase by the same percentage as the properties in their district.

Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, adopted in 1992, limits the growth of government revenues. In the case of property taxes, entities are required to reduce their mill levies so revenues will remain relatively constant, unless voters approve additional mill levy increases. TABOR does allow governments to adjust levies for inflation and new construction.

Taxing entities can ask voters to exempt them from the TABOR

restrictions that force them to lower their mill levies, and Routt County voters have done just that for a number of programs. In 2006, for example, voters approved two property tax increases for the Steamboat Springs School District. In 2005, voters approved tax measures for the Bud Werner Memorial Library expansion, the Purchase of Development Rights program and Horizons.

Most approvals have been for small levies, but with rapidly appreciating property values, all those small levies are starting to make a big difference.

Then and now

Former Steamboat Springs City Councilman Paul Strong called the increases that some taxing entities are seeing in Routt County "a big issue."

"It's a concern," Strong said. "It's caused problems elsewhere, where you start pricing people out of their homes."

Strong said many voters, including him, probably didn't realize when approving TABOR exemptions just how much some small mill levies would eventually rise. He said people tend to think of such taxes in terms of what they will add to their current tax bill, and don't necessarily consider the implications of a future 34 percent increase in property values. Strong said the tax raises the county is seeing this year may affect his decision to vote for future exemptions from TABOR, even though he finds that state statute less than perfect.

"I think there's some issues with TABOR, but there's got to be a way to keep property taxes suppressed in areas of rapidly rising home prices," Strong said.

Routt County Assessor Mike Kerrigan takes a different view, noting that the cost of providing services is going up just like - and sometimes because of - property values. Kerrigan said he views money as "energy" that fuels economies.

"We're all in this together," Kerrigan said. "Property tax is just a redistribution of your money and my money. In healthy economies, we share it a lot. : We participate in a community where we all need each other's help."

Where's it going?

"I think it would be safe to say it surprised us," Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen said of the booming tax revenues her organization will see this year.

Mizen and other Horizons staff members held a meeting last week to discuss the issue in preparation for a future board meeting at which actual budget decisions will be made. While she recognizes the magnitude of the increase, Mizen said Horizons could certainly use the money.

"Money from the state has not been enough to meet needs in Routt County," Mizen said. "We're going to be able to do even more. : We know that we can make good use of it."

Mizen will recommend to the Horizons board that funds focus primarily on its programs for children, families and adults. She anticipates being able to ask adults who are on a waiting list to participate in day programs. Mizen does not anticipate adding another Horizons group home in 2008, but said some of the money may be put to staffing current homes.

"Providing services to adults who need 24-hour care is a fairly big undertaking," Mizen said. "Obviously, to do that, we need people, so the board plans to look at our compensation for support staff. We have the same workforce issues others in the community have."

CMC Dean Kerry Hart also said some of the increased funds will likely go toward the college's workforce, although CMC's Alpine campus in Steamboat does not totally control those funds. Hart said money collected in the college's six-county system goes into one pot and is redistributed. He said property values are making similar gains throughout the CMC system.

"It will help us to maintain the high quality that we currently enjoy," said Hart, who noted the current financial crisis facing the state school system has been the subject of much debate at the Capitol in Denver. "One of the things I really appreciate about CMC is that we do have the resources to provide quality education. : We continue to keep tuition low while providing top-quality education."

Rising costs

Chuck Wisecup is chief of the Oak Creek Fire Protection District, which will see its mill levy revenues increase from $3,079,499 in 2007 to $3,929,346 in 2008, a 28 percent jump. Wisecup said the money will go toward a number of uses, such as a new fire truck and debt financing for a new fire station in Stagecoach. Wisecup said he has a pretty good pulse on property values because he must sign off on building permits in South Routt and wasn't too surprised by the increase.

"The big portion of our growth was Stagecoach," Wisecup said.

Wisecup said the increased funds are sorely needed for a fire district with outdated equipment, only two-and-a-half full-time employees and burning demands.

"Our calls for service are increasing with the growth," Wisecup said.

Wisecup said the fire district received only seven calls for service in January 2007. Through Jan. 30, 2008, the district received 30.

Bud Werner Memorial Library Director Chris Painter said the library might use its 34 percent increase in property tax revenues to pay off the bonds it issued for its expansion sooner, or to refinance its debt to reduce its mill levy. Painter rejected the notion that the library's increase from $2,341,249 in property tax collected in 2007 to $3,130,796 in 2008 amounts to a windfall.

"That does not result in a windfall for the library," Painter said. "But it does help for the long-term stability."

Perhaps more than any other taxing program in Routt County, the Purchase of Development Rights Program is directly tied to the cost of land. The program compensates landowners for placing their property under conservation easements. Ron Roundtree, chairman of the PDR Advisory Board, said it makes perfect sense for the PDR program's revenues to increase at the same pace as property values. The program's tax revenues, collected countywide, rose 34 percent, from $1,219,370 in 2007 to $1,640,315 in 2008.

"It seems every project that comes in, the value of the land is higher," Roundtree said. "This lets us stay in the game. : This allows us to keep pace with the escalation. It keeps us in the hunt."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

thalgard 6 years, 2 months ago

The lizard...I have been a homeowner for 20 years in this town, in a house that I built myself...I also work full time, am raising a beutiful daughter with my wife, and still manage to go outside and play every day...the only time I have ever collected any social services is after I was seriously injured on the job(workman's Comp).

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the_Lizard 6 years, 2 months ago

Fine, but just realize that our property taxes have risen at an unprecedented rate. The windfall our local governments are enjoying are at the expense of the local landowner, ironically the development rights program is really enjoying the windfall.

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thalgard 6 years, 2 months ago

s-boer...how are your social security checks treating you, you heartless creep?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

Bore- PROVE thalgard lied. Show us the linky! LOL!

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thalgard 6 years, 2 months ago

hey Sboring...woo hoo! new fire trucks and increased funding for horizons! Definitely a heck of alot better than endless war, profiteering, and a mindless assault on our constitution you blithering idiot!

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the_Lizard 6 years, 2 months ago

thalgard, do you pay property taxes? Or are you one living off the largess of " blithering taxpaying idiots" like sbvor? BTW profit isn't a bad word. If you work, it keeps you in a job.

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thalgard 6 years, 2 months ago

the_lizard...what makes you so sure that s-boer is a taxpayer...we have already established is this blog that he recieves royalties from exxon as well as medicaid...he is the grandest of egotistical hippocrites!

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thalgard 6 years, 2 months ago

the lizard... I also am not a big fan of increased property taxes, nor am I one of those who believes that 40 acre mcmansions deserve any agricultural tax breaks...I also love to have my road plowed, am ecstatic about our kids programs, and am really happy that we have such good schools....my wife and I both work really hard in order to be able to stay in this town...but I wouldn't have it any other way...our property taxes are still lower than most, and we really do have some incredible fringe benefits because of them.

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steamboatsconscience 6 years, 2 months ago

hey bore like you have ANY credibility? LOL (quote) "Those of us who work tirelessly to help inform voters ARE the men and women "in the arena".

I believe you meant you (meaning YOU) who works tirelessly spouting your right wing propaganda to the amusement of the voters who know what a buffoon you really are. the only arena you will work in is one of the rings in a circus.

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letomayo 6 years, 2 months ago

So the local goverments are enjoying windfall taxes. Have you noticed the traffic? You want to get rid of horizons and their clients? Get rid of CMC? End fire districts? Insted of wining about taxes, why not make sure the taxes go to safety, higher ed. in are county and roads and maintenance and any other necesities to make our lives better. I'm paying taxes for a illegal war that I don't support and for all the other BS our goverment wants like the bridge to nowhere. Better to pay taxes and limit spending than going in debt like so many people, banks, and are goverment, etc. Imagine if our taxes were used in wise ways instead of dumb ways. We could limit taxes and know we had enough for the necessary things in our lives. You don't like how hte money is spent, get rid of your elected officials and vote in others. It wouldn't take long to get the meassage across.

Taxes are the way for communities to contribute to there community wellbeing. If you are not collecting medicade sbvor will you in the future? will you take social security or are you now? You can gripe sbvor but then you're action should show your convictions.

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steamboatsconscience 6 years, 2 months ago

with over 400 posts since the first of this year, ( I predict at least 6000 or more by year's end since its an election year!) the bore has convinced absolutely no one that he/she/it is right about anything it says. on the contrary, with its constant attacks on nearly everyone on these forums and the interjection of its political agenda on subjects TOTALLY unrelated to politics, he/she/it has alienated the people that it has fervently tried to convince. we have listened to buffoons in Washington for 7 years already, we dont need to listen to a self righteous one here in Steamboat but not to worry folks, when the people of this country elect either the first woman or black man (or maybe even both!) to the White House, the sbvor will be no more, succumbing to either an aneurysm or heart attack at the realization that his/her/its glory days are in the past. you and your Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado are irrelevant relics of the past and should be gracefully buried at the Ronald Reagan Library. you are so yesterday dude.

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steamboatsconscience 6 years, 2 months ago

just taking my cue from you buffoon. since I have started posting I have only taken shots at the truly mean spirited on these forums, namely you, #'s and dundalk (one and the same) (although I will give her credit for toning it down as of late) and reallocal, while you on the other hand attack EVERYONE with your incessant drivel, mainly to feed your immense ego. so sad. sure hope your mirror likes you, because no one here does who's my daddy? at least I have one who loves me, how about you?

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 2 months ago

they got the money they are going to spend it period..........

we are suckers...............period.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

"Who's your daddy?" Bwa-ha-ha-ha!!!

Just another way of proving the Bore is out of touch with even commonplace tag lines! Trying to bring back "Wasssszzzzupppp!" next? Let's all start saying "Keen!", too! We'll go back in time to when Full Service and Happy Endings had nothing to do with your love life du jour, and Pee Wee was associated with kids sports leagues and not movie theater indiscretions.

Another way of proving my dinosaur theory! Quick! Get the Bore to the Smithsonian!

Oh yeah: when are we going to see PROOF that thalgard lied about you, hmmmm?

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housepoor 6 years, 2 months ago

Even though I am aware our increasing tax burden and happy about it, it is still significantly less then they pay in most parts of the country. $2700 on a $750,000 house here in town is reasonable. A relative in the Chicago suburbs pays $7000 on $400,000 and he say his town is one of the cheaper ones.

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betamikeiski 6 years, 2 months ago

These attacks on each other are pointless. All I know for certain is I work my butt off to provide for my family and don't ask for a lot in return. Instead, what I got is a 30%+ increase in the taxes levied against my home, my land and my business. This 30%+ increase was for a total of approx $3000! Before anyone makes light of these increases, think about shelling out $3K out of your OWN pocket on top of already existing taxes! Let there be no mistake that this increase is BRUTAL, it IS hitting us very hard and if the goal here is to eradicate the middle class in the Yampa Valley, then this is what we are going to soon be seeing. I understand that the money goes to a wide array of worthy causes but when do we say "enough is enough"?

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the_Lizard 6 years, 2 months ago

Right betamikeiski! The subject really isn't whether sbvor is a dinosaur; it's increased property taxes. So what if land and property values have gone up; the only way to cash in on that is to sell your land or property.

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justathought 6 years, 2 months ago

"when do we say "enough is enough"?", when the people realize that no matter how much the government wants/needs it will never be enough, they'll be back for more. If they figure it's too soon to ask the voters to raise taxes again, they just raise fees. Voters seem to be as stupid as the government expects them to be. All they have to say is it's for the kids, or our bridges are collapsing, etc and the voters can't get more of our hard earned money to them fast enough. No one questions where all of our money is going now, government shouldn't have so much extra money for the grants they deem worthy or their pet projects like the bridge to nowhere, let the people decide what they want to finance; if it's a worthwhile project the people will fund it. Before you blame this all on the republicans, check into some of the stupid pork projects hidden among the bills that get passed and who put them in, there is stupidity on both sides of the isle. Until this crap stops the government will always play robin hood but they think the rich is anyone with an income over 20,000.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

You guys keep saying your taxes increased; mine did not. In fact, since my valuation is the same til next year (done every 2 years), my taxes went down $70 this year. Don't know what happened to all of your taxes since the City does NOT implement any property taxes at this time. It all goes thru the county, so I find this funny as hell.

In fact, the majority of taxes that passed this year were for essentials; unlike the Rec Center. It means- people voted for tax increases. That's the American Way: we vote. If the vote goes against you, bummer. Sometimes, the vote goes against us. If you want to rail at the system, fine, but next time you'll need more votes on your side.

Either way, those of us who can prove we work hard in the valley should be happy to have the extra tax money in coffers. Maybe it can be used for more plowing this winter.

And the fact that the Bore is a dinosaur is relevant to the discussion. Bore wants to give people the Freedom to pay as the choose. Well, what if people get that Freedom and decide no taxes are a good thing altogether? That's why we vote. Bore's comments allude to taking that voting process away, which will take us to the into a government form that the Bore rails against in 100 posts per day.

So: do you trust the general public to just have the freedom to pay for those necessities by their own choice? Or should only people who make enough money be able to pay for the general services such as education, fire, etc.?

Obviously not since most of the taxes voted in this past November were for essentials. That's an outmoded way of thinking and points to Dictatorships. That goes with the "dinosaur" allusion quite nicely.

If we take away the citizens right to vote on taxes, shouldn't we take away citizens rights to voting for politicians, also? Just because YOU vote for a certain President doesn't mean it was my choice or somebody else's choice. We have to put up with whomever the majority votes for.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 2 months ago

nothing wrong with a good, old fashioned heated debate. its part of what makes our country great. but as soon as the personal attacks begin, the debate goes South.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

How can it be a personal attack if the person attacked is anonymous? (Since I know the identity, yes: it's a personal attack since I know the motivations behind the Bore's posts. I don't think the others know, though.)

Plus, debate isn't about cutting and pasting the same thing over and over again. That's "parroting." Debating comes up with new things each discussion to dispute the other side.

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steamboatsconscience 6 years, 2 months ago

kiel re taxes i think that the county is on a rotating basis, they reassess half of the county every year, so your tax increase would come next year., but I'm not sure of that. bore a dinosaur ? nah not early enough. algae maybe?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

LOL! Nice! I think I've got another nickname for Bore now: Dinobore!

That's true. Still, I have no problem with the increases that were voted in this year. I still wanted a Rec Center and that would have increased it more, but it was still within my limits and I have no doubt that I have less disposable income than most on this forum. I'm not poor by any means, but my we only owe on our mortgage. Everything else is paid for because we manage our money properly.

Plus, stopping smoking last year saved me at least an extra $300 last year alone. If my life insurance get a good reevaluation from quitting smoking, that should hopefully save me another $300-500 a year. Haven't heard back yet, so I can only guesstimate that. Getting rid of my phone land line will save another $300 a year now that we have cell phones.

I also still (to my chagrin and aching body, and to my neighbors laughter) I still use a shovel that cost $25 and wide snowpusher that cost $50 (pusher is new, shovel on 4th yr) instead of buying a snowblower for my driveway.

Nickel and dimes still add up to savings. Every time I pay cash somewhere, I bring all the coin change home to drop in a piggy bank. Each year, that's maybe $100 in coins for gas money or the quarters for the casinos! All that savings helped allow me to upgrade to a 42" LCD HDTV this summer and will pay for our Le Reve tickets in Las Vegas this spring when we go! Viva!!!!!! Las Vegas!!!!

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JazzSlave 6 years, 2 months ago

kielbasa:

Interesting how you only indict the anonymity of posters you disagree with.

Incidentally - Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Samuel Clemens, Albert Eienstien, Tom Wolfe, Bob Dylan, and Mother Theresa, have all anonymously criticized the polity & public figures of their times. I suppose those criticisms can't be taken seriously, right?

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

Since you know the names of those you listed, evidently they could be attributed to someone not anonymous, correct? Otherwise, you'd never know.

And if you go thru all my posts, I assail anonymity as a whole. Same goes for you and even others I agree with. It's just the ones I agree with have sometimes contacted me personally thru here so I already know their identities. So, you're out of luck on that position. It means I know the motivations behind what they say. I know it's not an outsider stirring up crap when they have nothing to do with Steamboat.

If a person is too scared to put their name to their words so as to avoid being held accountable for the words, then I believe they should be frowned upon. How would you feel if your neighbor/friend/etc. was agreeing with you to your face yet comes on this forum anonymously and attacks you for any position, or calling you a "Dim/Liberal/Socialist/Nazi/Dinosaur/Twit/etc." Would you still call that person friend if you found out?

All people should be able to be held accountable by their peers for their words and actions. Any poster on this forum who claims to be local when trying to roust up votes should be known as to whether they live here or not purely because if they don't live here, they have no true ownership of what happens in this town.

To use your own words (paraphrased) about your learning martial arts, you learned to protect yourself. That also meant taking a physical level to a physical level. It meant not hiding from the boogeyman. Why should words be any different?

You be pretty pissed if someone anonymously was telling people you had sick, sexual fetishes, or that you secretly eat neighbors' pets, wouldn't you? A rumor, even unfounded, has weight if given plausible words behind them, whether true or not. You can say "water off a duck's back" but that BS. Words hurt, no matter who you are, to some degree. Words can also ruin your life.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 2 months ago

Yep. Their pseudonyms were eventually made public. So until then (in a couple of cases, posthumously) they couldn't be taken seriously, right? And the people who relied upon Poor Richard's Almanac before Franklin was unmasked as the author were all saps, right?

Methinks thou dost protest too much. Political & ideological labels=accusations of sexual perversion & sociopathy? Please. If I call someone a socialist for supporting HillaryCare, I will explain why. That my explanation is anonymous is irrelevant.

You write:

"Any poster on this forum who claims to be local when trying to roust up votes should be known as to whether they live here or not purely because if they don't live here, they have no true ownership of what happens in this town."

I assume that's aimed at AJ. I don't know about "roust[ing] up votes". Seems to me he's principally focused on broadly ideological issues & national politics; topics where he's not going to turn you into a conservative, just as you will never force him to the left. The local issues he's weighed in on have included enough detail about Steamboat that I'm convinced he's local. If you don't believe him, that's your problem.

For all your caterwauling about AJ and those who avail themselves of anonymity in an explicitly anonymous forum, it's pretty amusing how much time & effort you devote in response to someone whose anonymity demands (according to you) we all ignore. I think the only person here less verbose than AJ is you; and you spend the lion's share of of it tangling with someone who "bores" you. And your salvos have become increasingly juvenile of late.

As to your last three sentences - grow up. I've recently been accused (by smoke) of being a violent sexual deviant, and I really don't care - precisely because he/she/it IS anonymous. I haven't spent a nano second wondering who he/she/it is, or what he/she/it will say next. Water off my back, in other words. His/her/its words don't "hurt", and I can guarantee that they will never "ruin [my] life."

That you get more worked up about AJ's political characterizations than I do about smoke's sophomoric taunting speaks volumes.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

No, the "local" rousting is aimed at many. You have your opinion, and I have mine. And that speaks the exact same volume as any other opinions.

You say you don't care when people talk that way about you, yet you say:

"I've recently been accused (by smoke) of being a violent sexual deviant, and I really don't care - precisely because he/she/it IS anonymous."

You make my point exactly. It was and should be brushed off, without regard to the gist of the post itself.

Thank you.

As for juvenile, yep! I admit it. Sometimes, a fart is still funny, as told to me long ago from a George Carlin album.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 2 months ago

"You make my point exactly. It [anonymous commentary] was and should be brushed off, without regard to the gist of the post itself."

Except when the post is one with which kielbasa disagrees. Then it warrants endless paragraphs of rebuttal, punctuated with gratuitous insults.

Gotcha.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 2 months ago

Wow! You mean I'm sbvor?? But...but...I have no links!!!

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addlip2U 6 years, 2 months ago

Housepoor sorry - but that is not a very good comparison. For example: in Chicago they are no sales taxes on groceries;
wages/compensations are higher than in Steamboats....etc. etc.

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