Blue River worried ballot mix-up will jeopardize future plans
Town of Blue River officials are worried that a misunderstanding about a ballot measure will prevent them from moving forward with their goals of developing the town and becoming more financially stable.
A sales tax measure on the ballot, called Issue 2D, will not result in any new or additional taxes for town residents, according to information in a ballot sheet notice.
The sales tax initiative is designed to capture tax money already paid by Blue River residents, but that is not supporting services for the town.
Many Blue River residents are currently paying a sales tax associated with their utility bill, but because the town has no sales tax, the money Blue River residents are paying is going to Breckenridge instead of Blue River, the ballot notice states.
Blue River resident Steve Lapinsohn said during a Blue River Comprehensive Plan meeting on Tuesday evening that he was afraid other residents wouldn’t understand the real meaning of the sales tax measure.
Lapinsohn said he received a Copper Mountain election ballot, and when he went to retrieve the correct ballot information for Blue River, he had to request the white pamphlet that outlines the sales tax measure.
“I’ve talked to so many people who say, ‘I don’t want a sales tax,’ but when you explain it, it’s plain as day,” Lapinsohn told fellow Blue River community members during the meeting. “You guys have two weeks to make sure people know about it and understand it. I don’t know that anybody beside the people here in the room know what it is.”
According to the blue book for Issue 2D, a 2.5 percent sales tax in Blue River would result in $47,000 in additional revenues originating from taxes on existing utility bills, short-term lodging and sales tax on in-home businesses.
The addition of sales tax revenues from Issue 2D would result in an estimated annual budget surplus of about $63,000, said Gabe Preston, of RPI Consulting in Durango.
Community members at Tuesday’s meeting said if the sales tax measure doesn’t pass, it will inhibit the town’s ability to carry out the goals outlined in its new comprehensive plan.
“If it doesn’t pass all of this is for nothing,” said Blue River Mayor Lindsay Backas.
Blue River residents have been working with Preston to design the comprehensive plan.
The town’s consultant met with the Blue River Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee for the second time on Tuesday to go over the document, which includes goals and strategies for the town, as well as funding strategies to accomplish those goals.
“The leadership wants to make some improvements to the way the town functions, try to define it better and make it more competitive,” Preston said.
Some of the goals outlined in the comprehensive plan include maintaining and enhancing the quality of town infrastructure, ensuring reliable and consistent snow removal and improving Blue River’s recreational assets.
Town leaders also hope to improve the safety and functionality of the Highway 9 corridor, preserve wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of natural hazards.
A common theme expressed by participants in Tuesday’s meeting was the need to improve communication between the town and its residents.
Leaders said that hiring a town administrator would help establish a town presence, having someone dedicated to community communications and outreach. Added staff would also help the town manage its finances and operations, Preston said.
“They don’t really have what you’d call a traditional municipal staff,” Preston said, “They have a part-time clerk, a part-time building inspector and a town board that volunteers. They all sort of pitch in to keep things going.”
In addition to the sales tax measure currently on the ballot, town leaders are looking at ways to improve the budget, including annexing properties, developing small-scale commercial or retail within town limits, applying for grant funds and possibly levying a tax.
Currently, Blue River has no retail commercial uses and is heavily reliant on property tax. On average, between 2009 and 2011, 64 percent of total revenues originated from the town’s general operating mill levy.
According to data provided by RPI Consulting, in communities such as Frisco, Dillon and Fraser 66 percent to 77 percent of revenues originate from sales taxes and only 2 percent to 12 percent originate from property taxes.
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