Council to weigh tax questions

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council will provide feedback Tuesday on a proposed mill levy to create a heritage fund that would support five area museums.

The.0003 mill levy, which must be approved by voters in November, could affect the city's decision to seek a mill levy to support fire services.

The proposed countywide property tax would raise $225,000 per year. Plans are for Historic Routt County to receive 10 percent of the total revenue and another 10 percent to go into a fund that would provide grants for museum capital projects.

Tread of Pioneers Museum Board President Jayne Hill said the council asked the museum to come to its Tuesday meeting to keep council members updated on the proposed museum tax.

For more than a year, the council has been discussing tax issues that might appear on November's ballot. The council plans to discuss three scenarios for a fire tax at Tuesday's meeting.

In March, Tread of Pioneers Museum officials broached the mill levy idea with City Council members and county commissioners. Since then, museum representatives had five meetings with the Hahn's Peak Historical Society, the Hayden Heritage Center, Historic Routt County, the Oak Creek and Phippsburg Historical Society and the Yampa Town Council.

The group plans to ask county commissioners to approve the mill levy ballot question at the commissioners' July 15 meeting.

The proposal is for the revenue generated from the taxes to be divided between the five museums according to school district boundaries and populations. Adjustments will be made to accommodate districts with more than one museum.

The museums will have to apply for grants for capital projects. That money can be used toward projects such as the $17,000 it takes to paint the Tread of Pioneers building.

The City Council is weighing a property tax to support fire services and is concerned that too many tax questions could affect the chance the fire tax will succeed on the ballot.

In last November's election, a fire tax failed by just 253 votes. The tax would have raised $1.9 million in property taxes to cover the city's fire and ambulance services. It would have added $600,000 to the fire and ambulance budget and freed up $1.3 million in the city budget to use toward capital projects.

One of the options the council is now considering is imposing a property tax of less than one mill to provide for the increase in fire protection services. The increased mill levy would be about $300,000 and provide for six additional positions.

Another scenario is similar to the one that was presented to voters last year. This property tax would be about 4 mills and would cover the entire fire department budget and free up $1.25 million in the general fund that could be used for capital improvements.

A sub alternative to this option would be to fund capital improvements required for the fire department out of the freed-up funds and other dedicated capital improvement funds. This would reduce the mill levy to about 2.3 mills.

Under the final scenario, the existing Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District would annex the city and take responsibility for providing fire protection services.

A mill levy of about 4.8 mills would be imposed throughout the district.

This scenario would also free up about $1.25 million in the city's general fund and could be put toward capital improvements.

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