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Ignacio might ask voters for sales tax increase
1/20/2014 By: Carole McWilliams
Ignacio town trustees were receptive Tuesday night, Jan. 14, to Town Manager Leo San Miguel’s proposal to ask voters for a 1 percent sales tax increase.
Town sales tax is now 2 percent.
“We are looking to begin discussion” of this, he said. “As we go through the budget process, it’s becoming more difficult to meet our needs.”
He noted Bayfield town trustees just decided to seek a 1 percent sales tax increase, also from 2 percent up to 3 percent.
“Every municipality struggles with this” he said.
Sales tax is the primary revenue source for many towns, including Ignacio and Bayfield.
San Miguel estimated that the 1 percent increase could bring in around $125,000 of new revenue.
He proposed putting this on the November general election ballot, which will be run through the County Clerk’s Office. The new money could go for general operations, or the ballot question could designate it for certain uses, such as maintenance on water, sewer, and gas lines, or streets.
“We’ll put together a plan of what we would like to do with the money,” San Miguel said. “We are trying to put together capital plans, how we start replacing the most in need pipelines” including some very old clay pipes.
The ballot question also will include a TABOR exemption to allow the town to keep and spend the additional revenue, he said.
“We are looking at sales tax (versus property tax) to spread the burden and cut back the need to increase utility rates that would be needed without this increase,” San Miguel said.
Town Finance Director Lisa Rea agreed.
San Miguel said there might be resistance from some business people, but, “They are all talking about utility rates. Deferred maintenance is what gets us in trouble. We are now facing the piper. We all know these expenses are going to go up. We’re trying to get ahead of the ballgame.”
He said he will bring more information before trustees have to decide whether to put this on the ballot. The town would have to have an intergovernmental agreement with the County Clerk’s Office in July to be on the November ballot.
Trustee Tom Atencio commented, “This (sales tax increase) would be easier on the community than raising utilities or property tax. We need to know how the money would be used.”
Trustee Cecilia Robbins said, “With the possibility of this, there has to be a way to show that in the long run it will save. Spending it on cars or cool toys will get a no vote from me.”
Audience member Bernadette Lopez added, “It will need to be earmarked for specific necessities. You have to have your ducks in a row and be specific.”
Rea cited a recommendation to form a citizen task force to promote the tax increase. “We need to know there are citizens on board to even go forward,” she said. “It’s a big task but a vital task.”
Trustees generally agreed to have town staff continue working on a possible ballot question.
Trustees also agreed with San Miguel’s suggestion to ask voters to approve town legal publication of ordinances by title only, rather than the entire text of an ordinance, because of the cost.
This would be at the April 1 town board election.
San Miguel said the proposal came after the town published the full text of a bond refinancing ordinance that occupied one and a half pages in the Dec. 20 Pine River Times.
Future ordinances could be even longer, he suggested.
If voters approve this, ordinances would be published just by title with reference to where citizens can read the whole ordinance if they want, such as at town hall or on the town web site, San Miguel said.
“About 50 percent of towns in Colorado already do it that way,” he said.
If the town goes to that, Atencio wants the full text of ordinances posted where people can read them.
Town Clerk Georgann Valdez said, “Any and all ordinances are available at town hall for viewing or copying, or online.”
Atencio objected to having to go into town hall and ask for it. He wanted it posted where people wouldn’t have to do that.
Trustees voted to proceed on this ballot question for April, with a requirement that the full text of ordinances will be posted for 30 days.
Town attorney Dirk Nelson said he’ll bring back an ordinance for a formal vote.
Trustee Alison deKay asked if that have to be published in full.
“Yes,” Nelson said.
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