Dillon considers recreational marijuana tax for April 1 ballot
Ryan Summerlin March 25, 2014
The Dillon Town Council is considering plans to present one or two tax initiatives to voters on the April 1 municipal election ballot.
The first initiative, which town officials definitely plan to propose to voters, is a 5 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales. Draft language of the ballot question closely follows similar initiatives passed during the November general election by municipalities in Summit County and throughout the state, said town manager Joe Wray on Tuesday during a town council work session.
Like other towns in Summit County, proceeds from the tax would be reserved to offset increased costs for administration, law enforcement and health services.
However, the town of Dillon currently has a moratorium in place prohibiting recreational marijuana sales. That moratorium is scheduled to sunset Oct. 1, months after the municipal election.
“Without having any scientific data, I would speculate that the last initiative failed because we weren’t specific enough about how the money would be spent.”
Dillon Town Council member
The town is moving forward with the tax initiative because the deadline to submit ballot proposals to the Summit County Clerk and Recorder’s office is Jan. 27. In addition, town of Dillon attorney Mark Shapiro said the tax initiative and the moratorium really aren’t connected to each other. Because the excise tax would affect sales if passed, it wouldn’t go into effect until town council votes to lift the moratorium.
The second tax question is being proposed to raise funds for local arts and recreation projects. But, considering that a question to impose two user-based tax increases was soundly defeated in November, council members struggled with the idea of presenting a second tax initiative to voters.
Councilmember Tim Westerberg said he needed to know why voters struck down Referred Issue 2E a few months ago before he could support the idea of presenting two tax questions in April.
“Without having any scientific data, I would speculate that the last initiative failed because we weren’t specific enough about how the money would be spent,” Westerberg said. “If we move ahead with this we need to be real specific about how the money is going to be spent by maybe going as far as presenting a bulleted list, so if voters support this they know exactly what they can expect to see for their money.”
On the table are five versions of the arts and recreation ballot question, but the most likely to be drafted should council decide to present a second tax initiative in April is a $1 tax on admissions to public events. That initiative would generate an estimated $185,000 in additional funds.
However, the $1 admissions tax was floated and defeated in November under Referred Issue 2E.
“I got complacent the last time around,” Westerberg said. “I didn’t knock on any doors and I really didn’t believe in what we were trying to sell.
“If we’re not willing (as a town council) to ante up and put in our own time to educate the public about how we intend to use the funds, then maybe we’re not ready to do this in April.”