Glenwood Springs voters bulldoze street tax proposal at the ballot box

Cars make their way north on Blake Avenue near 24th Street.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Glenwood Springs voters soundly rejected two ballot measures Tuesday that would have implemented a sales tax and bonding capacity to fix the city’s streets, more than 70 percent of which are in poor or failing condition.

Ballot Issue A, calling for a 3/4-cent sales tax increase, and Ballot Issue B, a $16 million bond authority proposal, both failed with 60 percent of the voters saying no, according to unofficial results of the city-wide election.

For the sales tax question, 2,195 votes were cast, and for the bonding issue, 1,189 votes were cast, according to the preliminary results. The city will release the official tally later in April.

The 3/4-cent increase in the city’s sales tax would have funded at least $56 million in road repairs and rebuilding over the next decade, according to City Council and proponents of the tax.

Ward 5 City Councilor Jonathan Godes, who also co-chaired the Fix Our Streets Now campaign committee that advocated for the tax, sees the ballot issue failure as a clear sign of the community’s priorities.

“Your checkbook is where your priorities are. The community has told us they don’t want a sales tax to fund infrastructure and road construction,” Godes said in an interview late Tuesday.

The sales tax was a controversial issue, with many city staff and a host of infrastructure experts advising that the roads needed a massive influx of cash to be repaired in the near future.

Opponents of the ballot measures argued that the ¾-cent sales tax increase, which would have brought the city’s total sales tax rate to 9.35 percent, would drive business away from Glenwood Springs, hurting both retailers serving the region for convenience shopping and the tourism industry.

The sales tax “gets a little more intense when you get up around 11 percent for a new refrigerator, stove, and some of those larger items,” former city councilman Ted Edmonds, who organized the Committee for Responsible Taxation to oppose the proposed sales tax, said during an Issues and Answers Forum in March.

The new tax, had it been approved, would have meant a sales tax of 10.85 percent at Glenwood Meadows businesses, where a separate public improvements fee, or PIF, is also assessed at places like Target, Lowe’s, Ulta, Vitamin Cottage, PetCo and the new Marshall’s store.

“If you really believe that having our sales tax be higher than any of our neighbors is not going to impact the business community in this town … I am going to have to disagree,” Edmonds said during the forum.

Edmonds did not return phone calls Tuesday evening requesting comment.

Godes said the street tax was the best solution put forward by the city staff, the Financial Advisory Board, the Transportation Commission and City Council to repair the road infrastructure.

A third party study found that 70 percent of the city’s streets are in poor or failing condition and need complete rebuilding, not just resurfacing, according to the election notice for the ballot issues.

As for the path to repair infrastructure going forward, “I think that’s up to the community,” he said.

“I guess, going forward, it’s not up to the city advisory board, the council, or the city to come up with something. It’s up to the community to come up with something,” he said.

Godes mentioned the alternative of a property tax increase measure in a few years, if there isn’t another solution found to fix the damaged roads.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from a previous version. Councilor Jonathan Godes represents Ward 5, and mentioned proposing a property tax in two years, not four.

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