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Town of Bayfield asking for 1% sales tax increase
1/10/2014 By: Carole McWilliams
Faced with a $2.3 million backlog of street maintenance needs, Bayfield town trustees opted Tuesday to ask voters in April for a 1 percent sales tax increase to meet those needs – from the current 2 percent up to 3 percent.
The $2.3 million backlog figure came from a street inventory done in 2013, Town Manager Chris La May said.
The 2014 budget listed $669,559 for assorted street maintenance projects in addition to the big spending item — replacement of the two green bridges on Bayfield Parkway, estimated at $3 million.
The town got a $707,000 grant last year to help pay for bridge replacement. The budget was approved based on that.
In December, the town got notice of a second grant for $679,000.
La May said the second grant will free up money for other street maintenance beyond what was budgeted, “assuming the bridge replacement costs come in as expected.”
The town money comes from just over $5 million left from $6.8 million that the Colorado Department of Transportation paid the town in 2011 to take over Bayfield Parkway (previously Highway 160B) from end to end, with the money to be used only for road-related projects.
Bridge and maintenance spending in the 2014 budget would have reduced the transportation fund to around $2.1 million.
Despite the second bridge grant, La May said, “The forecast is that if we continue taking money from the transportation fund, in around 2020 to ’21 or ’22, that fund will be depleted.”
He suggested that starting in 2021 once town hall debt is paid off, around $200,000 a year could be transferred from the capital improvement fund to the transportation fund to close the funding gap.
But he told trustees, “That still doesn’t meet the full need. There’s a need for additional revenue. Is it time to go to voters” for a sales or property tax increase? The election could be at the Apr. 1 town board election or during the November election, he said.
Trustees generally preferred a sales tax increase. They debated the timing.
“There aren’t that many people that vote in April,” trustee Tom Au said. “More will vote in November.”
Trustee Matt Nyberg agreed.
Only 67 people voted in the 2012 town board election, out of 1,619 registered voters.
Trustee Ed Morlan noted that with a sales tax increase, people who live outside town limits will share the cost. They also use town streets, he said.
He suggested that if an April vote fails, the town could ask again in November.
Town attorney Dirk Nelson agreed that could be done. The April election will be in person voting while the November election will be a mail election run by the County Clerk’s Office.
Mayor Rick Smith said he prefers sales tax “because it spreads the burden. I don’t think there’s a good solution. You get what you pay for. The alternative isn’t pretty,” meaning deteriorating streets.
He preferred an April vote “to test the waters. The burden will be on the town to educate the people.”
Trustees voted 5-1, with Au voting no, to ask for a 1 percent sales tax increase in April, with the money designated for street projects.
They still have to approve a formal election resolution to that effect.
La May noted that delays in maintenance raise future costs because of more road deterioration.
He cited South Mesa Avenue, scheduled for work this year. Because of paving deterioration since last year, the cost has increased around $30,000.
He also noted that large road maintenance contracts combining many separate items cost proportionately less than contracts with fewer items.
So he presented the idea of tackling the larger maintenance backlog this year or over four years.
“Alternative 1 would complete all maintenance/ rehab work in 2014 and incidental crack sealing the next three years,” he wrote in his staff report. “Alternative 2 spreads the backlog work out over four years (around $600,000 per year) and attempts to group the work together so that there are economies of scale…”
Public Works Director Ron Saba commented, “The bigger the project, the cheaper it gets. What worries me a little bit is the deferred maintenance. … Bigger is better, more bang for the buck. We have a (project) list. We like to do things in different parts of town, spread the wealth.”
La May continued, “If we can spend more money, we can hopefully get out ahead of it, but we can’t do it all. … We’d be using transportation fund money with the idea that if we spend the money now, it will save money later on. We can try to dial it in a little more and bring it back at the next meeting.”
This will involve a revised task order with the town’s contract engineer to add in additional road work before it goes out for bids.
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