Mt. Crested Butte pursues tax hike

Voters to consider tax increase in November

If approved by voters this fall, a tax increase and other revenue-building strategies may put the town of Mt. Crested Butte closer to completing key projects such as an extension of the recreation path and building a new maintenance facility.



The Mt. Crested Butte town council approved a new Five-Year Financial Plan during a regular meeting on Tuesday, June 17. Since January, the Town Council has been reviewing and modifying the financial plan, which was intended to identify a steady revenue stream. According to Mt. Crested Butte finance officer Karl Trujillo, the town has had budget shortfalls in two of the last five years.
The town initially considered doubling the mil levy on property values (property tax), but is now considering asking Mt. Crested Butte residents for a three mil increase, rather than five. Voters will also be asked to “de-Bruce” the town’s current mil levy for capital expenditures.
Due to restrictions caused by the Colorado Taxpayers Bill of Rights amendment (TABOR) the town can use only 2.8 mils of the five mil levy on property values, Trujillo says. The rest is given back to taxpayers as a “temporary tax credit,” Trujillo says, an approach many towns have taken to keep their existing mil rates under the provisions of TABOR.
By asking voters to de-Bruce the existing mil levy, as well as add an additional three mils, Trujillo says, voters will actually be considering a total increase of 5.2 mils.
The town is also considering asking voters to allow the town to issue nearly $5 million in municipal bonds, and to continue an extra 0.5 percent sales tax that is set to expire next January. The town now charges a 4.5 percent sales tax.
Council member Andrew Gitin says the new strategy in the Five-Year Plan is to find additional revenue sources without increasing property taxes too much. “It’s spread out as best as possible,” he said after the meeting.
At the meeting, council member Gary Keiser gave an overview of recent changes to the plan, including the addition of a timeline to finalize ballot questions and estimate future project costs.
Keiser said the financial plan was designed to provide funding for a number of proposed public works projects and maintenance issues, as well as expected increases in operating costs and employee payroll.
He said the plan would provide funding to complete a proposed extension of the Recreation Path from Marcellina Lane to Winterset Drive, as long as engineering work is completed in 2008.
Town manager Joe Fitzpatrick said the plan would also allow for funds to build a much-needed additional maintenance facility in 2010.
The plan also includes money allocated for the operation of Mt. Crested Butte’s proposed aquatic recreation center. “Our objective here is to have $1 million ready when it’s built just to support the up-front operating expenses,” Keiser said. Keiser said operating expenses for community recreation centers in Colorado are almost always subsidized, and the town’s recreation center was likely to run less efficiently during its first year of operation.
Gitin says improvements such as the recreation path extension and recreation center are projects the town has been considering for some time, but, “to see it on paper in a physical plan is awesome.”
Keiser suggested the town review the plan annually.
He said the town still needed to develop a strategy to approach voters about the mil levy, bonding and sales tax ballot issues. Keiser said he would be putting together a fact sheet with key points about the financial plan and information on the town’s proposed improvements.
According to the Five-Year Plan timeline, to participate in this November’s general election the town must notify the county clerk by July 25. Public presentations on the Five-Year Plan to gather the required pro and con arguments for a ballot question are scheduled for later in August.

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