Vote ‘No’ on Ballot Issue A and B
I am concerned about the approach the city is taking to pass an additional ¾-cent sales and use tax for the maintenance and reconstruction of existing streets and alleys, including sidewalks, drainage and utilities. I have been informed by city personnel that it is still uncertain as to which fund this will be included in, or if a new fund will be established to manage this new tax.
I agree that our street infrastructure is in bad shape, but I feel the plan is too much and too soon. There are already three capital project type funds in effect for the city, all classified as special revenue funds that are supported by sales and use taxes. The three funds are: 1. Acquisition and Improvement Fund which generates 1 cent, 2. Capital Projects Fund which generates a ½ cent and 3. Street Tax Fund which generates another ½ cent. This is a total of 2 cents on the dollar that is designated for capital projects, which is what these ballot issues pertain to.
The city passed the continuation of the Acquisition and Improvement Fund’s 1-cent tax in 2016. Not all of this was designated for specific projects that were bonded for. This undesignated amount could be used to help with street improvements. The Capital Project Fund is a perpetual fund that will never expire and those funds are available for street improvements as well. The Street Tax Fund, which is specific to street improvements, is set to expire at the end of 2026. It appears that much of the revenue from these funds get funneled off for whatever project or use that can remotely be labeled as a “Capital” use. I feel that there could easily be more scrutiny as to prioritizing the use of these funds and I personally would rank our street maintenance and construction at the top of this list. I would encourage City Council to look at pooling resources from the three funds listed above and accomplish what can be done through 2026, and then assess what needs are still unfulfilled when it is time to renew the current ½-cent sales and use tax In the Street Tax Fund.
Please vote “No” on Ballot Issues A and B.
Mike Harman, Former Finance Director for the City of Glenwood Springs
Future City Councils could continue collecting tax
Although I live outside of Carbondale, I own a retail business in Glenwood Springs. I urge all Glenwood Springs voters to vote “No” on the proposed sales tax increase. Other letter writers have already pointed out that this increase would make the Glenwood sales tax the highest of any city in the Roaring Fork Valley except for Snowmass Village. What the other letter writers have not pointed out is that the proposed tax would also increase the difference between city and county retail sales tax to almost 4 percent. In addition, many internet retailers still do not collect any sales tax.
We have customers every day who are shocked at how high the existing sales taxes are. People do make decisions about where they shop based on tax rates. The retail business is hyper competitive these days, and an increase in sales taxes would put Glenwood Springs businesses at a tremendous disadvantage. I realize the need for investment in our infrastructure, so I don’t want to be a naysayer without proposing a solution. If the city would start collecting sales taxes on internet purchases, there would be no need for a tax increase.
The proposed tax would raise more than double the amount the city says is needed. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of the current City Council when they say this new tax would expire once the proposed projects are finished, the ballot language does not say that. Any future City Council could simply pass an ordinance any time they want to keep collecting the tax and spending money, even after the current list of projects is complete. Don’t believe for a second that future politicians and city government would forego collecting a stream of taxes that has already been approved.
Carl Moak, Summit Canyon Mountaineering
Inappropriate tax support
There is too much collusion by current City Council members and their appointed board members to promote a huge sales tax increase.
The committee organized to promote the new ¾-cent tax increase consists of three current City Council members and nine financial advisory board members. This is from their website.
Financial advisory board members were all appointed by the City Council to serve on this board. Two of the current council members on the political action committee are listed as counsel liaison to the financial advisory board, as per the city website.
One-hundred percent of committee members are current City Council or council-appointed board members. Has the city of Glenwood Springs just weaponized council-appointed board members, and counsel liaisons to that board, to advocate and promote the ballot issue they want imposed upon us?
Their mission is to raise the sales tax by almost 20 percent to 9.35 percent and 10.99 percent at Meadows. Is it appropriate to have all appointed board members and three current City Council members meeting to promote this agenda? City Council members should support their own ballot measures they put on the ballot, but to organize a committee of only their appointed board members to promote the question is not at all appropriate or ethical.
Is it appropriate for the city, and required by the city, to put a tax increase question on the ballot for voter approval? It is not appropriate for these council members to lead a committee to promote their sales tax increase ballot question?
Their website on page 11 says “Who are we?” “We exist to provide that voters need to have unbiased facts to make informed decisions about the forthcoming ballot issue.” You are all 100 percent City Council members and members appointed by City Council members.
Unbiased, I think not. Too much of an increase, promoted by all insiders.
Gerald Slafkes, Glenwood Springs
Not giving city more money
I just got my street tax ballot, and I’ve been thinking… If I paid a guy to cut my grass, and he didn’t do it, and the next week I paid him and he didn’t do it, and the next week I paid him and he didn’t do it, and the next week he told me it would cost a lot more because the grass had gotten so tall… I’m not sure what I’d do about the grass, but I wouldn’t give that guy any more money.
So I guess I’m voting no on the street tax.
Tony Hershey seems to feel the same way. I might vote for him, too.
Jon Banks, Glenwood Springs
Voting no on street tax
After careful consideration I will vote no on new street taxes. My reasons are:
Do more with less: A 20-year new sales tax and almost doubling the city’s bonded debt to $56 million is not the answer to our chronic street problems. Instead the city should prioritize its annual $44 million plus budgets to fix our streets on highest need basis over a 10-year period from existing revenue streams and other available resources.
“Tourists will pay the bulk of the new taxes” is a bad and dubious bargain. This thinking will make the city ever more dependent for its fiscal health on the tourist industry, which already is relentlessly and incessantly promoting Glenwood on worldwide media and thereby diminishing our local character. Imagine the disastrous impact on tourist dollars should the monstrous quarry project of RMR ever be approved.
The city’s plate of pending project is already filled to the brim, e.g.: The Seventh Street beautification, the North Landing at Sixth Street, South Midland and the Sunlight bridge. Digesting and completing these key projects must be the city’s primary focus.
Taxes once imposed are never or seldom repealed.
Sales taxes are regressive and fall heaviest on the lower and middle income residents.
This new tax will hurt Glenwood stores and restaurants: Shoppers and restaurant patrons will increasingly defect to lower taxed cities like Carbondale, Gypsum (Costco) and Rifle.
There you have it. I am urging my fellow Glenwood voters to vote no.
Gerry VanderBeek, Glenwood Springs
The power of taxes
Jim Yellico, Garfield County Assessor
Taxes have an oppressive nature, which is why they are naturally resisted by Americans. It’s in our blood to oppose taxes. Yet taxes can also signify the commitment of a community to get something done.
Where is the balance?
In Colorado the balance lies within each of us. We make the decision to be taxed, or not. Our taxes, like our elected officials, are voted in by us, for the benefit of us. Our local government leaders are not able to unilaterally impose taxes on the people, although sometimes it seems like they would like to … LOL (or not).
For the citizens of Garfield County the issue of taxation is front and center. Last November, we voted on several property tax increase measures to fund everything from schools and fire districts, to RFTA and CMC. Currently in Glenwood Springs, we are being asked to impose a ¾-cent sales tax on ourselves for the purpose of securing $56 million to repair/replace the 43 miles of streets and infrastructure of our city.
RAISING TAXES SHOULD BE A LAST RESORT
When government is struggling to fulfill its obligations, asking the citizens to pay more in taxes may be appropriate. When government is financially strong, experiencing year after year revenue growth, and completing major infrastructure and capital projects, asking the citizens for more money is irresponsible.
Let’s take a look at the financial strength of the city of Glenwood Springs. The following section is taken directly from the 2019 Budget Book, (an interesting read, especially if you like good news stories):
• Forecasted revenues of $65.5 million, and operating expenditures of $55.7 million
• A balanced General Fund with projected available reserves equal to 34.7 percent at the end of 2019 ($5.6 million)
• Issuance of $22.2 million in debt in the A&I Fund for capital projects;
The city has budget line items of $23.8 million in 2019 that will be allocated between these projects: 27th Street bridge and roundabout, South Midland improvements, Sixth and Seventh Street redevelopment plans, South Bridge and the Eighth Street connector to downtown.
And there is also good news for the future. From the 2019 Budget Book:
The passing of a 2016 ballot initiative gave approval for the city to issue up to $54 million in Acquisition and Improvement (A&I) Bonds without further voter approval.
Leveraging our financial resources will increase our capacity to move forward on projects that City Council deems critical. We expect to issue approximately $22.2 million in debt in 2019, preserving the remaining ($31.8 million) bonding capacity for projects that may include South Bridge and/or development of the confluence area.
Our city is far from struggling. In fact, our leaders are doing a very good job of preparing us for success now and in the future.
SO WHY ASK FOR AN INCREASE IN SALES TAXES?
I had a good conversation with one of our City Councilmen, and his most compelling arguments are:
1. Estimated $56 million needed to complete this “project” will be more expensive if we wait;
2. Tourists pay 70 percent of our sales taxes; and,
3. We need new streets and infrastructure.
I may agree with each of those points, but am I willing to raise my own taxes to make it happen now?
Considering all of the financial capabilities of our city right now, the amount of street and infrastructure projects already happening, and the ability to bond for more money without this new tax, I am not voting for this sales tax.
OUR COMMUNITY IS GENEROUS TO GOVERNMENT, AT A COST
In 2016, we voted to extend the ½-cent sales tax that we approved in 2005. Last year, we voted to raise property taxes paid to the city of Glenwood by 24 percent, increasing our mill levy from 6.513 to 8.615.
We also approved a new tax/mill levy for RFTA, an increase in tax rate for Re-2 School District, Carbondale, Glenwood and Grand Valley fire districts, and gave CMC the ability to permanently raise our tax rate when their revenue drops because of a lower residential assessment rate. In 2015, we passed a huge mill levy increase for Roaring Fork School District.
Each tax increase may not be much, but when you add them all together, it is plain to see how government can severely impact the cost of living in our community.
Jim Yellico of Glenwood Springs is the elected Garfield County Assessor.