- Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 4 p.m.
- Routt County Courthouse, 522 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs Almost five months after a proposed property tax increase failed by a 2-to-1 margin at the polls, a group of residents has asked Routt County officials not to give up on efforts to fund road improvements.
"We've been asked by a group of citizens to re-explore the potential for a road ballot issue again," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. "We've been asked not to drop the issue of roads."
The Routt County Board of Commissioners will hold an open work session meeting today at 4 p.m. to discuss potential county road improvements and ideas for paying for them.
In November, Routt County voters overwhelmingly turned down a proposed property tax increase that would have raised $3.3 million or more a year for road improvements and other capital projects.
The bulk of the criticism for the proposal focused on its lack of a sunset provision - after a six-year plan to improve 60 miles of county roads, tax revenues would have continued to flow into county coffers. The proposal also asked that county government be exempt from the state's Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which places a limit on the growth of government revenues.
Planned projects for the increased revenue included widening the shoulders on Routt County Road 129, reconstructing parts of C.R. 14 south of Colorado Highway 131, and hard-surfacing a number of unpaved roads.
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said the latest push for such improvements came from a resolution passed at the Routt County Republican Central Committee's county assembly earlier this month. Interestingly enough, Stahoviak said the resolution was supported by some of the most vehement opponents of last year's ballot measure.
Commissioners hope a resident-driven process will bridge the gap between strong support for road improvements and strong opposition to a property tax increase at a time of rapidly escalating property values. But commissioners said any proposal for widespread road improvements would have to be accompanied by a new revenue stream.
"Bottom line, we need money," Stahoviak said. "I think it would be great if a group of citizens tackled it and came up with something they think the voters would accept."
Commissioners hope such a group might come together at tonight's meeting.
"We don't want to appoint a citizens committee," Stahoviak said. We want interested citizens to self-form."
Stahoviak noted that three county programs funded by property taxes - the Museum and Heritage Capacity Building Grant Fund, Horizons Specialized Services and the county's Purchase of Development Rights program - were created in a similar fashion.
"We don't want to tell them what to do," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said. "We want them to tell us what to do."
Commissioners noted that today's meeting isn't just for those who support road improvements, but also for those who would oppose such a plan.
"The best way to make sure you get what you want is to be there during the process," Monger said.
Commissioners also encourage residents of Routt County municipalities to attend. The county is statutorily required to share any taxes it collects in a municipality, creating the opportunity for road improvements in the county's cities and towns as well.
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