Saturday, November 20, 2004
The article in the Nov. 10 Steamboat Today, "City moves forward on URA," rings a familiar warning bell to all taxpayers in Routt County.
Those with longer memories think immediately of the DDA(Downtown Development Authority). This current urban renewal authority thing is a parallel re-run(perhaps end-run would be a better term).
Again the proposed funding for the URA is from the public trough -- creatively and deviously called an "incremental property tax." What that really means is freezing the current tax level and skimming any increase in future taxes for use by the URA.
Even if the increment only applies to the taxable properties in the URA area, they are lost to the county as a whole in the future to offset inflation, leading to higher overall tax increases to make up for the URA skim-off.
We also see the same tactics being used this go-round: rush it through council and get it approved before the gullible public has a chance to study and react to it. Let the council majority do the approval, not those being taxed.
Nowhere in said article is a public vote on the issue even mentioned. Apparently council majority intends -- as it did with the 1999 DDA -- to ignore transparency and the sunshine laws of the state. Thanks to two minority council members, it didn't fly at that time and finally was put to a public vote and failed miserably. The strategy used by the URA sponsors is almost identical to that used by the Chamber Resort Association in the DDA, 3-2-1, et al, attempts to raid the city and county treasuries.
Plaudits to Ken Brenner for speaking out in the article. He exposed the camouflage attempt by the URA and City Council majority to rush this proposal to divert tax money intended for schools, roads, law enforcement, etc. to an essentially private use.
The council's spending $14,000 already for a "blight survey" seems to me presumptuous, wasteful and unnecessary ahead of voter approval.
Why doesn't the URA group merely form an improvement district and finance the job out of its own packet? They are the ultimate beneficiaries. Those of us in the rest of the county should not have to do it for them.
Because this proposal affects all of us eventually in the pocketbook, let's watch the City Council majority closely and insist that the URA proposal go to a public vote.
Omar M. Campbell