Jack Dysart: Approve road tax

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— Voters should approve the road and bridge property tax, Referendum 1A. There is little dispute that the improvements are needed: an editorial in the Steamboat Pilot & Today pointed out that the road improvement plan is the result of many hours of county and volunteer effort and that it "provides a clear direction for the county that should be followed."

The editorial opposed this particular referendum because it lacks a sunset provision, and because it will give Routt County a permanent exemption from the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) so that the county may continue to collect and use the property taxes in the future, primarily for but not limited to capital improvements. I'll address both of these issues.

This referendum does not need a sunset provision.

Consider that road and bridge expenses are about 27 percent of the county budget. Higher oil, asphalt, construction and materials costs have resulted in increased road maintenance costs far in excess of past and projected revenue increases. Overlay cost per mile increased 42 percent last year, while chip-seal cost per mile went up 29 percent.

The county currently has 162 miles of paved or double-chipped road. Even with no new road improvements, these cost factors alone will increase annual road maintenance expenses to more than $700,000 per year (in 2007 dollars). (These figures are taken from Routt County's audited financial records and 2007 budget, available on its Web site at http://www.co.routt.co.us )

Two-thirds of the counties in Colorado have exempted their governments from TABOR restrictions because they saw that the allowed rate of revenue growth does not keep up with the increasing costs for county services, infrastructure growth and maintenance.

The TABOR formula uses the Denver CPI, which does not account for the much higher cost of living in Routt County, nor does it account for our higher materials and road construction or general construction costs.

In 2003, the Steamboat Springs Tax Policy Advisory Board recommended that residents and local officials support any measure that will amend state law to reduce both the residential/commercial property tax rate disparity and the downward "ratchet" effect on revenue. We can't amend state law in this election, but we can exempt ourselves from some of its onerous consequences. These road improvements benefit the majority of city and county residents. The revenue is very predictable and stable, and will have a much better chance of helping the county keep up with construction and other costs, and nonresident homeowners will make a substantial contribution toward these county improvements.

Vote "yes" on 1A.

Jack Dysart

Steamboat Springs

Comments

another_local 7 years, 1 month ago

If there are new requirements for road improvements due to new development, then the properties benefiting from the work should pay for it through special assesments. This is another way that new developement can pay its own way rather than asking the rest of us to pay for growth through county wide taxes.

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jldysart 7 years, 1 month ago

Readers of my letter in favor of Referendum 1A should know that the Pilot and Today edited out about 50% of my original letter without my knowledge, and left out several key points. This referendum has indentifed 59 miles of County roads for improvements, but it's obvious that projected population growth, especially west of Steamboat, will generate requirements for further road paving and improvements beyond the first six years of this tax. The newspaper and other detractors of this referendum like to imply that any addtional revenues will be spent for unspecified projects, and call it a "blank check". While that's partially true, it a fear-based argument that conveniently ignores the County's list of unfunded capital projects which include:
- Additional improvements/hard surfacing of County roads, - Road & Bridge equipment and shops, - Expansion of Emergency/911 Communications Center and infrastructure, - Expansion of the Detention Center/ Sheriff's Office administrative building, - Construction of new office building on the Downtown Campus, - Improvements at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

Given Routt County's history of fiscal conservatism, and the higher than average rise in costs in this county, does anyone seriously think that six years from now the County would not continue to spend the bulk of these funds on roads and needed capital improvements?

Jack Dysart

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spukomy 7 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Dysart, How does the expansion of 911 communications, expansion of the detention center, building construction and improvments to the YVRA come under a "road and bridge" property tax? I'm kinda lost on this one. Thanks in advance.

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justathought 7 years, 1 month ago

[Consider that road and bridge expenses are about 27 percent of the county budget.] and [The revenue is very predictable and stable, and will have a much better chance of helping the county keep up with construction and other costs] If the county guarantees that 27% of their budget will still go to road and bridge and this tax revenue will be in addition to the normal road and bridge budget, I could support it. Without that guarantee, less money can be budgeted for road and bridge because it will have it's own funding and more money can go to other projects. Potentially road and bridge won't end up getting that large of an increase in budget, just from a different source.

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jldysart 7 years, 1 month ago

For Spukomy:

Please re-read referendum 1A and my posting above. This is a long term capital improvements tax, starting with road and bridge for the first six years and then it may be expanded. Yes, the extra funds can be spent on other County projects and services. I have long realized that the TABOR restrictions, however well-intended, create imbalances in the long run, such as seen in deterioration of the Colorado higher education system. People who can't envision things being any better than they are now, and don't mind seeing our infrastructure deteriorate over time, should definitely stick with TABOR. This County has proven to be fiscally conservative, and down the road (no pun intended) if they are not prudent in spending our money, we can participate in the budget process, vote the spenthrifts out of office, or put a more restrictive mill levy on the ballot.

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