Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District asking voters for a 4% sales tax to fund maintenance
WILDERNEST — The Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District ballot Issue 6A will ask voters whether they support a 4% sales tax in the district to pay for services such as snow removal and street improvements, among others. The district is west of Silverthorne and includes the Wildernest community.
District Manager Shellie Duplan explained that the longtime subcontractor who took care of maintenance services in the district retired. A maintenance contract was put out to bid — including street maintenance, plowing, storm drainage, pedestrian path maintenance, etc. — and the district received three bids.
“Through that bidding process, we were quite surprised to see a large jump in price for annual maintenance — quite a big difference in what we had been used to paying for the past 35 years,” Duplan said. “So that showed us, for so many years we had quite a good deal with our contractor who was retiring, so … in looking at our budget said, “Alright, we’ve really got to make up some money here in order just to maintain our current level of services.”
The contract was awarded to local contractor RKR and costs $500,000 more annually than the previous contract. Duplan said the district, board of directors and accountants got together and determined that there were two options to close the budget gap: raise the mill levy to increase property taxes or impose a sales tax. She noted that a large portion of the funding base for the sales tax initiative would come from short-term renters. Based on a survey, about 30% of properties in the district are used as short-term rentals.
Duplan said notices were sent about the potential sales tax initiative around April and that public meetings were scheduled to discuss the issue in June and July, but there wasn’t great turnout, so an online survey was sent. The survey, Duplan said, received a better response, with 67% of survey participants supporting the sales tax measure and 22% opposing it. Based on the feedback, the district board of directors moved forward with a resolution to put the measure on the ballot.
Specifically, Duplan said the sales tax would apply to purchases made in stores that reside within the district, such as Wilderness Gas & Grocery, and to purchases delivered to a home in Wildernest. Taxes would apply to short-term renters when they rent a unit in the district, and that tax would be collected by Airbnb or VRBO.
Duplan said people in the district who are opposed to the sales tax are generally opposed to an increase in taxes and believe they already pay enough. Duplan said the district is split about 50/50 between full-time residents and second-home owners.
“We did find that … second-home owners are willing to pay a sales tax and not have their property taxes increase and let some of the burden fall on the shoulders of people that are using that infrastructure, like visitors, to help pay for repairs and maintenance and snow plowing,” Duplan said.
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If the measure passes, and the district notices that it collects more money than is needed to meet the budget, Duplan said, the district can refund property owners through a mill levy decrease in property taxes. She said that if the measure doesn’t pass, the district will see a decrease in services.
Wildernest homeowner and resident Karen Ranieri said that she didn’t feel the measure had been well explained to homeowners, but she said she would prefer to not have her property taxes raised, which was an alternative to collecting the needed funds.
As a homeowner who doesn’t short-term rent her property, she pointed out that many homeowners have post office boxes outside of the district where they might ship online orders, avoiding the tax. She added that she feels the services like snow removal in the district are well maintained. However, she was concerned that 4% is a fairly high tax.
“In our current climate, to impose a 4% tax on items we have shipped to our home is really an issue,” Ranieri wrote in a text message, referencing people leaving their home less often amid the pandemic.
Shall Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District taxes be increased $600,000 annually beginning in 2021 and by such amounts as are received in any year thereafter by the approval of a district-wide sales tax not to exceed 4% upon every transaction or other incident with respect to which a sales tax is levied by the state that occurs within any area of the district; such tax to be used exclusively for safety protection, street improvement, and transportation improvements and services; such tax to commence on July 1, 2021; provided that the tax to be levied shall be in addition to any other taxes levied by the district; and provided that the board may annually adjust the percentage of the sales tax collected down and up within the not to exceed amount of 4.0%; and shall the proceeds of such taxes and investment income thereon be collected, kept and spent by the district as a voter-approved revenue change and exception to the limits that would otherwise apply to the district under Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law and without limiting in any year the amount of other revenues that may be collected and spent by the district; all in accordance with the resolution adopted by the Board of Directors of Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District on August 18, 2020?
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