Glenwood starts talks on re-upping special taxes
Glenwood Springs officials plan to form a steering committee to begin the process of soon asking city voters to reauthorize a special sales tax that has paid for numerous amenities, including the recreation center and ice rink.
The city’s Acquisitions & Improvements sales tax was approved by voters in 1998 and is scheduled to expire at the end of 2018.
Along the way, it has paid for a variety of improvements, from the current Glenwood City Hall, the Community Center/ice rink complex and Municipal Operations Centers to several bike and pedestrian trails and most recently the new downtown parking structure and restrooms at Veltus Park.
It’s essentially the go-to funding source for any kind of public improvement or capital project, City Manager Jeff Hecksel said during a recent work session with City Council to discuss the possible extension of that and other taxes that are due to sunset within the next five years.
Without the A&I tax fund in particular, “The city is going to have to do things dramatically different than we do today,” Hecksel said.
Council took the first step to begin the process of making a case to voters and coming up with some specific wish-list types of future projects, agreeing to form a steering committee to start the conversation.
Representatives will be sought from each of the city’s appointed boards and commissions, as well as from the general public, to sit on the committee.
Two special property taxes that are used to supplement city fire protection services, including the 2013 fire department operations mill levy and a separate mill levy used to pay for a bond issue to build new fire stations, will also be included in the discussion, council agreed. Those taxes are due to expire in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Together, the three taxes compose about 30 percent of the city’s total tax receipts, Hecksel said.
One of the steering committee’s tasks will likely be to put together a community survey to gauge the public’s willingness to extend the taxes, and for what specific purposes. The city has budgeted $20,000 to do the survey this year.
“If we get out ahead of this, it’s basically seamless and will be the status quo going forward,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said. “We need to let the citizens know we are looking 20 years down the road.”
Plus, a ballot question sooner rather than later, say in 2016, gives the city another chance to try again to go before voters before the A&I tax expires, he and other council members said.
“We have found that when we ask for these things and are making a reasonable request, we have been successful,” Councilman Todd Leahy said.
Councilman Ted Edmonds agreed the more leg work that’s done beforehand to make a case for extending these and any other special taxes, the better.
“You don’t want to go to voters with something they perceive as half-baked,” he said.
Following the steering committee’s work and completion of the survey, a specific ballot proposal would need to be formulated. Once on the ballot, the city would likely call on the Glenwood Chamber’s Community on the Move committee to support the campaign, as it has with past efforts.
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