Dueling street tax campaigns hit the pavement in Glenwood Springs
Proponents and opponents of the Glenwood Springs streets sales tax question have hit the streets themselves to try to sway voters one way or the other on the upcoming city ballot question.
Earlier this year, Glenwood City Council decided to go to the voters in the April 2 election, asking for a new 0.75 percent sales tax proposal with a 20-year sunset and bonding capacity to fix the city’s streets.
Should the city complete the anticipated work before the tax actually sunsets, the tax would subsequently end, too.
Ballots for the city election, in which voters also will decide on candidates for four City Council seats, two of them contested, are to be sent out to registered voters on March 11.
“The thinking is, let us make this an infrastructure ask,” said City Councilor Jonathan Godes, who supports the proposed street sales tax.
“It is not just a streets bill,” he said. “When we get this project done in a decade we will have completely modern infrastructure, all the conduit for broadband, and water and storm sewers that are ready to go.
“It will be like we have built a brand new city, and to not address that now and try to save $14 million along the way, I think is just malfeasance.”
Opponents of the measure still have plenty of questions themselves — namely, why funds from the existing 0.5 percent streets tax already in place haven’t gone to fix the “perpetual potholes and dangerous road surfaces” as mentioned on the pro-tax fixourstreetsnow.org website.
“It is just not enough money,” Godes said of the current sales tax that’s also set to expire in 2026.
“It is a maintenance tax, number one,” he said. “We have annexed a number of streets over the years. These streets need complete rebuilds and are not up to the city’s necessary street standards.”
Should the 0.75 percent sales tax pass this April, it would bring the in-city sales tax rate to 9.35 percent when factoring in the various sales taxes that are assessed.
Comparatively, Aspen’s combined sales tax rate comes in at 9.3 percent; Basalt’s amounts to 8.2 percent; Snowmass Village’s is 10.4 percent; and Carbondale’s is 8.4 percent.
The thought of Glenwood Springs’ sales taxes being the second highest in the entire Roaring Fork Valley has many residents and business owners concerned, said Ted Edmonds, a former City Council member and head of the Committee for Responsible Taxation, which opposes the measure.
“Essentially, the city has various pots of money,” Edmonds said. “We have a street tax, and the Acquisitions and Improvements tax, and my concern is that if we were to raise the sales tax that we would have the second-highest sales tax on the Western Slope.
“At some point, the consumer begins to look around.”
Edmonds said he agrees the city needs to fix its streets, but, between the existing street tax and the proposed street tax, the amount raised, according to Edmonds, would amount to well over the city’s budget for fixing its streets.
Counters Godes, “If you want to live in a community that has all of the natural beauty that Glenwood has, but also has the challenges of two rivers, two railroads, a significant highway, and a major interstate — it costs money.
“To have all of these factors bisect the heart of our town, geographic and man made, it is really challenging.”
Edmonds worries the new tax might impact consumer behavior, to Glenwood’s detriment.
“Before we proceed with any additional tax we need to make sure we are spending the current revenue wisely,” Edmonds said.