Glenwood has a ‘$55 million problem,’ and possible tax solution
City of Glenwood Springs officials, with input from the Glenwood Chamber Resort Association’s Community on the Move committee, are debating the feasibility of a streets sales tax ballot question next April as part of the regular municipal election.
On Monday, Glenwood Springs’ Financial Advisory Board (FAB) met with city council members, city staff and Chamber representatives to discuss the possibility.
City Council already went back and forth earlier this year on whether to put a streets tax question on this past November’s ballot, but ultimately decided against it for two reasons.
One, councilors wanted to focus on the passage of Ballot Issues 2A and 6B, which extended property tax support for fire and emergency services for Glenwood Springs and the rural fire district.
And, two, with the fall ballot having already been as long as the number of streets in Glenwood Springs in need of dire repair, asking voters to support another tax on top of those already being posed did not seem wise, the council concluded.
“Right now, we have a half a cent that is dedicated to street maintenance,” City Councilor Jonathan Godes said in a separate interview. “When 60 to 70 percent of our streets are in failure, you cannot chip and seal a failing street.”
According to Matthew Langhorst, Glenwood Springs’ co-director of public works, that half cent currently generates $2.6 million per year.
Langhorst explained that, according to a pavement surface evaluation and rating (PASER) system prepared by an outside consultant, Glenwood’s roadway system held an average PASER rating of four. The scale rates a brand new road with score of 10, while a gravel road receives a one.
“Each year that roadways are not treated, they drop a PASER level,” Langhorst said. “Once you hit a three or below, you are in a full reconstruction, where as a five you may be able to do simpler mill and overlay.”
He explained that Glenwood Springs has 6.5 million square feet of pavement to maintain, and with the current funding amounts the average PASER level of 4 will only improve year over year by a very small amount.
“From the FAB board meeting … it appears that we are looking at an additional 0.75 percent tax on top of the existing 0.5 percent, but this will need to be brought back to council with a formal discussion and vote,” Langhorst added.
Additionally, earlier this summer, Frederick Polls surveyed Glenwood Springs’ voters asking a melting pot of questions, including how residents felt about the condition of the city’s streets and whether or not the community had an appetite for a sales tax increase to the tune of half or three-quarters of a cent, “with all the new money going to fix, repair and upgrade city streets?”
Out of the 225 respondents for that specific question, 69 percent said they would vote “yes” for the half-cent increase, while 29 percent said they would vote “no,” and 2 percent did not know whether they would favor it, or not.
When asked if they would support a three-fourths cent sales tax increase, 61 percent of voters replied “yes,” 36 percent replied “no,” and 3 percent were unsure.
“It is a 55-million-dollar problem, and every year that we put it off has been another year where another street has gone from fair to poor to failing,” Godes said. “I am in support of a three-quarter cent [street sales tax] because a half a cent does not address the needs.”
The same study illustrated that 57 percent of those polled held a negative view of the city’s streets, a statistic corroborated by Glenwood City Councilor Jim Ingraham.
“Just in terms of input that I get, it is almost universal,” Ingraham said at Monday’s FAB meeting. “People want the streets fixed.”
Arguing how tourists would fund a majority of the money that would go toward repairing neighborhood streets, Godes said of the three-fourths cent sales tax, “70 percent of this tax is paid by people who live outside the 81601 area code. It is as close to a free ride as we are going to get,” he said.
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