Pitkin Trustee's Worksession: July 2, 2018

by Pitkin News july 2, 2018

PITKIN TOWN COUNCIL DISCUSSES PROPOSING
1.5% SALES TAX INCREASE TO VOTERS IN NOVEMBER

At a special workshop meeting on July 2 which was attended by four members of the Town Council and four citizens the Council members had a non-binding discussion of key points to be included in a proposed sales tax increase. The idea for a sales tax increase gained momentum following a May 23 workshop review of Pitkin’s town budget presented by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (See PITKIN TRUSTEES HOLD A BUDGET ANALYSIS WORKSHOP TO CONSIDER FUTURE REVENUE NEEDS article in archives). Among the items discussed at the July 2 workshop were purpose of a sales tax increase, duration of the increase, proposed rate increase, and consideration of whether or not to include certain sales tax exemptions in the proposal. The consensus reached at the meeting is to be used in finalizing the language in a draft ordinance which will be proposed for approval at the July 9 regular Town Council meeting. An ordinance proposing a sales tax increase must be approved at the July 9 meeting in order to place the issue on the November general election ballot in compliance with the requirements of Gunnison County election officials and state law.

Initial discussion of the purpose for which additional sales tax revenues would be used indicated that the consensus was to indicate that funds would be used for general budget purposes. However, after comments from those citizens present, Pete Olson, Ramon Reed, and Robin King, the Council considered the possibility of proposing that the new sales tax revenues will be dedicated to the Street fund to help defray costs of snow removal, street maintenance, street signage and other related expenses. The final decision on purpose will be considered by the full Council on July 9.

It was generally agreed that the proposed increase will be 1.5% which is anticipated to provide an additional $15,000 per year. The current sales tax rate is 3% which raised a little over thirty thousand dollars in 2017. If the increase is approved by the voters the total sales tax rate in Pitkin will be 8.4% which will include 4.5% for the Town of Pitkin, 1% for Gunnison County, and the 2.9% statewide sales tax. The rate would be less than the City of Gunnison’s 8.9% sales tax rate and consistent with many other locations in Colorado. It was also agreed that this would be a permanent sales tax rate for the Town of Pitkin. It should be noted that the proposed additional $15,000 sales tax revenue mirrors the amount of general fund dollars ($14,800) that are proposed to be transferred to the Street fund to help defray increased snow removal costs for the 2018 budget year.

The Council then discussed the rather complicated issue of whether or not to grant exemptions or set higher rates for certain types of business, such as telecommunications services, prepared foods at restaurants, utilities, etc. The Council agreed that rather than complicating the issue proposed to the voters there would be no special sales tax rates or exemptions included in the ballot issue.

Towards the end of the workshop meeting Mayor Rachel New opened the floor for general discussion of how best to proceed to educate the voters on the need for the sales tax increase and how to provide good information to the public. Citizens Olson, Reed, and King challenged the Council to provide justification for the needed additional revenues by convincing the electorate that the Council has taken a hard look at future needs of Pitkin and to develop an outline of specific needs which need to be met and which will require additional revenues. During this open discussion the idea of committing the increase in funds to the Street fund gained some traction and will be discussed in more detail at the next Council meeting. It was noted that the Council needs to timely present an outline of snow removal needs as well as other Street fund needs such as signage and maintenance, such outline to be completed prior to the November election as part of the education and campaign to gain voter approval.

Finally, Mayor New asked Council member consideration of setting a special workshop meeting for July 23 at which time Colorado Department of Local Affairs representatives will facilitate a SWOT discussion in which the Council will identify Pitkin’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Pete Olson asked if the workshop would include specific discussion of short term rental regulations, noting that the Council agreed at its June 11 meeting to hold a July workshop for that purpose. Mayor New indicated she would poll the Council members to determine when that topic will be discussed. The Council next meets on July 9.

You may listen to the audio recording of this meeting by following this Link.