Property tax better than sales tax for Rifle rec center?
Citizen Telegram Editor
A longtime area resident with years of financial expertise in governmental funding thinks the city of Rifle should consider a property tax hike instead of a sales tax increase for a proposed community and recreation center.
But there’s a downside to her suggestion as well.
Christy Hamrick of Rifle, writing as a private citizen and not the finance director for the Garfield School District Re-2, recently sent a letter to the City Council, explaining her reasoning. (Read a version of her letter as a guest column on page 8.)
“With sales tax, you don’t have as knowable, or reliable, cash source,” she said during an interview on Friday, May 17. “It can go up and down, while a property tax is more stable and you know what to expect.”
However, Hamrick, a certified public account who’s developed several mill levy property tax hikes for the school district, said current property values and assessed valuation mean the city would likely have to ask voters for an increase of around 15 mills in their property taxes to generate enough revenue for the estimated $21 million recreation center.
“The even bigger question you have with either one, of course, is how this might impact the city budget over time,” Hamrick added. “The operations and maintenance costs are a big part of it. But I thought they might like to see kind of a back up plan” to a sales tax hike that is generating opposition.
Rifle No More TAXES has formed in opposition to the sales tax hike, and any tax hike, during the current economic conditions. The group says they do not oppose the idea of a recreation center and the likely benefits it could mean for the city and residents.
The City Council is scheduled to consider an ordinance at its Wednesday, June 5, meeting, placing a 0.74 percent sales tax hike and 30-year bond issue on the Sept. 10 municipal election ballot.
Hamrick said personally, she’s neutral on the rec center plans.
“It would be awesome to have a recreation center, but there’s the concern about the city’s general fund” due to the unknown operations and maintenance costs, she noted.
A possible even better option, Hamrick continued, could be to seek the formation of a special district with a taxing method.
“That way you have the surrounding area that can help with the financial burden,” she said. “But it would mean two ballot questions [to form such a district and then to set a tax rate] would have to both pass. And it’s just a tough time to pass anything like this.”
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