Two tax proposals shot down in Carbondale

Solar panels catch the rays outside a Carbondale building. The town placed a carbon tax on the April ballot to support future renewable energy and efficiency efforts
Aspen Times |

Carbondale voters batted down both tax questions – the proposed climate action tax and property tax for town infrastructure – each losing by hundreds of votes in Tuesday’s municipal election.

For the so called “carbon tax,” 1,022 voters cast ballots against, while only 637 Carbondale residents voted in favor.

The proposed property tax, intended to pay for town infrastructure projects, came only slightly closer to passing, with 959 voting against and 692 in favor.

The board of trustees hoped to bring in as much as $777,000 annually with the two tax increases combined.

And with more than $3,000 in contributions, the committee supporting the carbon tax raised and spent more money than any single candidate for the board of trustees.

The climate action tax proposed to increase residents’ gas and electric bills in an attempt to promote clean energy projects and reduce energy usage in keeping with the town’s 2020 energy goals.

The climate tax would have been applied uniformly across town, with one set of rates for residents and another for business owners.

Supporters of the carbon tax had estimated that the average household’s utility bills would go up $5 to $7, and the average business would see a $10 to $30 increase.

Critics of the climate action tax, such as Marty Silverstein, who won his race for the board of trustees, said the proposal did not specify clearly enough where the money would go. And it came at a time when the cost of living in Carbondale is already becoming unbearable through other tax increases and skyrocketing property valuations.

Other carbon tax skeptics wanted customers to take advantage of existing clean energy programs through utilities companies, which have reported low participation in Carbondale.

Proponents of the climate action tax said the funds raised would help pay for energy efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses that would bring their energy costs down.

So much so, claimed supporters like Dan Richardson, who also won a position on the board of trustees, that customers could see a net decrease in their utilities expenses.

The proposed property tax to fund capital improvements around town would have raised Carbondale’s mill levy by three mills, which would translate to a $119 increase on a $500,000 residential property and an $870 increase on a $1 million commercial property, according to town staff figures.

This property tax question followed closely behind two other property tax increases, making it a harder sale to residents. And its opponents were exasperated not by the property tax itself, but by any new tax increases.

Trustee Allyn Harvey, who lost his run for re-election, had championed both tax proposals. On election night he said there appeared to be enormous voter turnout to shut those proposals down.

The town will have to look at how else it can support clean energy and energy efficiency programs, and it will have to keep drawing from the general fund for its capital improvements, he said.

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