BOCC still undecided on housing tax
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit Housing Authority (SHA) didn’t get the go-ahead Monday to put a tax question on the November ballot, but the issue wasn’t nixed completely.
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) members said they still need more information on the proposal before they can endorse the idea. They have planned a special meeting for Sept. 3 to make a decision on the issue.
The three commissioners remain split on the issue, with Commissioner Bill Wallace in favor of putting the it to a vote and Commissioners Tom Long and Gary Lindstrom undecided.
The SHA, now supported by donations from county ski areas, towns and the county, is looking for an alternative funding source that will help it expand its programs. The proposed tax would do that, said SHA Director Gordon Ferris.
That tax is proposed as either a sales tax alone or as a sales tax in combination with a fee on new construction. Ferris sought guidance Monday on which proposal to pursue.
But he also needed the commissioners to agree to join a multijurisdictional housing authority. Under legislation passed this year, municipalities and counties can create a multijurisdictional housing authority under which a sales tax, mill levy increase or impact fee can be implemented. The authority has to certify the ballot question, which basically sends the issue to a vote. To make it on November’s ballot, a question must be certified by Sept. 11.
Silverthorne has agreed to join the authority, but Ferris also needs the county to get on board. He said Monday he believes the other towns, whose leaders haven’t yet signed up for the authority, will also eventually do so.
Lindstrom said he doesn’t think he can agree to join the authority unless he supports the ballot question. And so far, he isn’t sure he does.
For one thing, Lindstrom said, everyone agrees some properties should be exempted from an impact fee – namely those designed for locals. But that criteria hasn’t been established.
“I wouldn’t know what I was supporting,” he said. “This is just too ambiguous.”
Lindstrom also said he got about 100 calls about the tax proposal last week from residents, all of whom said they are against it.
“They feel as though they’re being taxed to death,” he said. “People are so angry at the school district. They’re so angry at the fire districts.”
Mill levy increases to support both the school district and two fire districts passed during recent elections, raising taxes for property owners countywide.
“If the BOCC agrees to put it on the ballot, the community perception will be we support it,” Lindstrom said.
“That’s a hell of a responsibility. It really is.”
Ferris said he doesn’t see it that way.
“Your support doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” he said. “We have to let the voters decide this.”
Wallace encouraged Long and Lindstrom to give the SHA direction to put the issue to a vote.
“We don’t have to be in total agreement,” he said. “It is time to let the people decide on this one.”
Instead, the commissioners asked Ferris to come back next week with more details on which properties would be exempt from an impact fee.
The SHA won’t close down if it doesn’t get a new funding source, Ferris said.
“In our presentations to all the (town) councils, we asked them to budget for continuing the (current funding) agreement next year,” he said. “Even if it gets on the ballot, there’s a chance it won’t pass and we’d be back to where we were. Most of the towns have said we’ll budget for it … (that) if it doesn’t pass, we’ll keep your doors open.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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