Our View: Vote 'no' on Ref. 1A

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We support Routt County's plan to improve 59 miles of county roads during the next six years. But county commissioners' decision to ask voters for a permanent exemption from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights to fund such improvements is excessive and unjustified. Therefore, we urge residents to vote "no" on Referendum 1A.

Referendum 1A asks Routt County voters to exempt county government from TABOR revenue restrictions. The exemption, often referred to as "deBrucing," would set the county's property tax mill levy at 12.266. The current mill levy of 12.42 is set to decrease to 9.229 next year unless the referendum is approved.

County commissioners say the revenues, projected to be $3.3 million for tax year 2007, would be used primarily for road and bridge projects, including the reconstruction of busy Routt County Road 14. For the first six years, $2.6 million would go to road and bridge projects, and the remaining $700,000 would be used for increased county operating expenses, including personnel.

Of the $2.6 million allocated annually to road and bridge projects, more than $800,000 would go to local municipalities, with the city of Steamboat Springs receiving the bulk of those revenues. Revenue distribution to local municipalities is required by state law.

After distribution, the county is left with about $1.7 million a year specifically for road and bridge projects. The six-year road and bridge improvement plan calls for $18.9 million in work. Of that total, $10.4 million would be funded by Referendum 1A, and the remaining $8.5 million would come from county reserves.

Here's the rub: After the first six years, the county would put $2.6 million annually toward unspecified capital projects and needs, and whatever remaining revenues are generated by Referendum 1A could be spent at the will of future county commissioners. Given the rapid growth of property values, we can only guess how large that pot of money will become.

Our current county commissioners say they didn't want to tie the hands of their successors, and to be fair, the county certainly has proven to be more fiscally prudent than the city of Steamboat Springs.

We're sympathetic to the concerns of the commissioners, including that TABOR was tailored to Front Range communities and can hurt the ability of local governments to meet the needs of their constituents. This is especially true in years of dramatic property value growth and rapidly increasing costs of goods and services.

It also deserves mentioning that the six-year road improvement plan was the result of many hours of input and work from county officials and volunteer residents. The plan provides a clear direction for the county that should be followed.

But none of this means Routt County has proved the need for a permanent, mostly blank check from taxpayers. We wish the county had proposed a deBrucing measure that sunset after six years. Then, the county could return to voters for additional funds, if necessary, in future years.

Or, if the future financial needs of the county simply can't be met because of TABOR, commissioners should have come up with a more specific plan for how Referendum 1A revenues would be spent beyond 2012.

Instead, voters must decide on a permanent deBrucing measure with a spending plan for only its first few years. For that reason, we urge a "no" vote on Referendum 1A.

Comments

rodcarew 7 years, 2 months ago

Thank you Steamboat Pilot for resigning us Stagecoachians to more years of negotiating dangerous, narrow, windy and guardrail-less roads. Obviously, the editorial board doesn't live on any of the roads proposed to be fixed.

We don't need to vote on every damn thing. Let's be educated about and trust the people we vote into office to make the right decisions.

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rcgirl 7 years, 2 months ago

VOTE YES ON 1A - rodcarew has it right! This referndum is not a luxury ticket item but is about safety and is beneficial for EVERYONE living in the county.

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fish 7 years, 2 months ago

Because the county commissioners are counting on the typical Steamboat voter to hold true to form and not look at the overall picture and approve this. Steamboat has long carried a person or proposal into to office/enactment that the rest of the county votes against. The county commissioners are once again hoping that again the "give it to me nowand I will figure out how to pay for it later" crowd will again carry this issue through.

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another_local 7 years, 2 months ago

rodcarew and rcgirl have it wrong. The county has plenty of money to fix the roads. This new tax will not fix more roads. It is simply a shell game to increase tax revenue. The money currently spent on roads will be replaced by a new tax freeing up the existing funding source for spending on something we are not getting to vote on.

Vote NO!

Especially NO on the de-Brucing which just opens the door to steadily increasing taxes without accountability for what they are spent on.

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Richard Levy 7 years, 2 months ago

If the county can find $18 million for a new justice center, maybe they can find some money to improve our roads.

Or we should look for a way to increase the gasoline tax. This tax historically is where road maintenance and building funds came from. Its time for those using the roads the most to help pay for it.

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slow_rider 7 years, 2 months ago

Steamboatrich these are not exactly realistic solutions or justifiable comments. Growth is creating additional wear and tear on our roads and infrastructure. TABOR is a system that negatively impacts County revenues as growth occurs. We need to realize that although this is not perfect legislation it is a huge step in the right direction and it is a low cost solution to what we all want - better roads in Routt County. We have to be willing to pay our share - these roads won't get better without it. Look at the cost ($25 per $100,000 of property value). I would pay this in a heartbeat to see some improvements.

Why do you think the solution lies in the Gasoline Tax? Do you really believe someone else will be willing pay to fix up our roads.

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dimwitiguess 7 years, 2 months ago

The State legislators refuse to raise taxes so it is left up to us to either raise our own taxes to fix or improve things. Your choice. Do you want good roads or not? Don't count on the Pilot for a solution, even though they tell you how to vote. The Pilot should just run everything, because they always know best according to their editorials. I know, I'm a dimwitiguess.

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buck 7 years, 2 months ago

another_local has it right - presenting this tax increase as a road repair fund is just a shell game to get more money, mainly by escaping the tax limitations established by TABOR. Sure, the commissioners will make sure some money gets spent on roads so they can say they were true to their word. However, the county has enough money now to do these repairs and improvements. They need to stick to what the county government was established for, and stop wasteful spending. This will hurt much more than they are leading us to believe. The 2006 assessor's value of my home was less than what I paid for it in 1997. Hard to believe it has decreased in value, especially since I've put on an addition and added a 2-car garage. This under-valuation is just setting us up for a huge increase, way beyond the actual value increase, when the county escapes TABOR.

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another_local 7 years, 1 month ago

In the past 10 years property taxes collected in Routt County have risen from 27.6 million to 44.9 million. Not all of thqt money stasy in the county but the % increase is valid. Sales taxes and sate funds are also up about 50% in that time frame.

Our county needs to re-prioritize spending and stop wasting money. We do not need another tax and we REALLY should not "de-Bruce" the property tax. That would jsut encourage irresponsible spending.

New taxes should fund new responsibilities not ongoing basic county services and should have sun-set provisions.

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another_local 7 years, 1 month ago

Sorry about the spelling on that last post. I was typing fast to get out the door for something I needed to attend to and did not look or spell check.

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natv63 7 years, 1 month ago

I will vote no. With a sunset I would still vote no. We will be taxed out of this rich mans play ground soon enough. Don't accelerate it. Stagecoach incorporate.

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59hotmama69 7 years, 1 month ago

VOTE NO FOR 1A!! Why should Routt County pay more taxes for roads when we already have money to fix the roads? Or better yet, why is there no sunset? The tax should end after the 6 years. This tax increase is going to effect family's holidays, birthdays, and vacations. Also, why would any of you want to put money into roads that dont need to be paved. Yes there are some roads that need to be paved but if we already have money saved up for that somewhere else then why pay more? Why on earth would anyone want to keep giving there money to the county if you dont know where the rest of your money that you pay is going to go? My feelings is I like to know what my money's going towards at all times and am not about paying for more money than what my family already has.

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