City discusses putting property tax on ballot

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— The City Council decided Tuesday night if it were going to ask city residents to approve a property tax, it wanted to ask only once.

Although every member on the council agreed that asking residents to support a 5 mill levy for fire protection services was the best option for November's ballot, most thought voters would approve a 2.8 mill levy for Howelsen Hill as well.

Results from a recent survey had 59 percent of residents saying they would vote for a fire and ambulance tax, 56 percent saying they would vote for a tax to fund Howelsen Hill and 51 percent saying they would vote for a tax on community capital improvements.

In a 5-1 vote, the council directed staff to draft an ordinance that would put two separate questions on November's ballot: one asking for property taxes to support fire protection and the other to fund Howelsen Hill.

The council had stated earlier this year that the city needed to find additional revenue sources or drastically cut operating costs if it wanted to meet its goal of using 15 percent of its budget toward capital improvements.

The council agreed that with the recent spread of wildfires, 2002 was an opportune time to ask for a tax that would fund the city's fire and ambulance services to the tune of $1.8 million a year.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the fire and ambulance departments would be funded even if a tax was not passed. But a designated property tax does allow for the departments to be fully funded and not compete with other departments during tight budget years.

Although a tax on fire protection was a clear decision for the council, it debated if the voters would accept another mill levy on the ballot. Council members stated concern that two mill levies might overwhelm the voters in November when they will also be asked to support a tax increase to fund the proposed county courthouse and an excise tax to replace the city's impact fees.

"If we think we need X amount of money, I think we go for it," Councilman Loui Antonucci said. "(Voters) might not support an increase in property taxes again."

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