City Council turns levy over to November ballot

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The City Council gave the nod to put a 4-mill levy property tax for fire and ambulance services on November's ballot.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council voted 6-1 on the first reading of an ordinance putting the tax issue on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The proposed 4-mill levy could raise $1.6 million, which would fund fire and ambulance services and free up general fund monies for capital improvements.

If passed, the impact residents will see on their tax bill is $31.84 for every $100,000 of assessed value for residential property. A commercial property owner will see $116 for every $100,000 of assessed value.

Earlier in the meeting, the council stressed the need to be specific on where the freed-up money in the general fund would be spent and to give that information to the voters.

"We have to get very specific," Councilwoman Nancy Kramer said.

Because Colorado state tax law has commercial properties paying a greater percentage of property taxes than residential property owners, council members also said they needed to have the business community's support.

"Council must come up with a (capital improvement) list so businesses can see something that is going to help them," City Council President Kathy Connell said.

Council members see a property tax as a way to create a stable funding source as sales tax revenues level off and even drop. It is also a way to tax second homeowners, who benefit from fire services year round but do not contribute to sales tax year round.

The lone no vote came from Councilman Loui Antonucci. He was not willing to put a tax question on November's ballot that would further hinder business and residents during bad economic times. He suggested the city first look at cutting its budget before moving forward with a tax.

"I just think it is really bad timing to go to the people of this town and increase their cost of living," Antonucci said.

November's ballot question will be the second time in two years the city has asked voters to approve a property tax. Last November, a proposed 5-mill levy failed by 250 votes. That tax would have raised $1.9 million and added another $600,000 to the fire department for additional firefighters and freed up $1.3 million in the general fund.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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