SHA sales tax question to go to November vote
BRECKENRIDGE – A .05 of 1 percent sales tax designed to support the Summit Housing Authority (SHA) will go to the voters Nov. 5.
The Summit Board of County Commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to support the idea.
If it’s approved, the sales tax will raise about $400,000 a year, enough to cover the annual operating costs of the SHA.
It’s a watered-down version of the original SHA tax proposal, but authority director Gordon Ferris said he’s happy with the modified ballot question.
“We had asked for a higher amount originally because we do have a need for direct subsidy monies for building or acquiring affordable housing in Summit County, but we have been able to raise funding and get local governments to participate in direct subsidy monies and will continue to do that,” he said. “Also, if we do have a successful campaign and the voters approve this in November, the $400,000 may be able to secure us loans in amounts of two to three times that.”
Ferris originally proposed a sales tax increase of .15 of 1 percent, an amount that would generate about $1.2 million annually – money that would not only cover SHA operating costs but subsidize housing projects.
When that didn’t get the support he had hoped for, he followed the suggestion of other local leaders and augmented it with a fee on new construction. That proposal called for a sales tax of .075 percent and an impact fee of 45 cents a square foot.
But even that proposal didn’t garner everyone’s support, so Ferris has tweaked it yet again. Commissioners said they can endorse this smaller, simpler plan.
“It’s basically the simplest plan he could propose,” said County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom. “He dropped one-third of the original sales tax he was going to ask for. It’s the lean-and-mean plan.
“My feeling is it’s a way to get the process going and give him the opportunity to figure out plans and programs for the future that he can come back with. If people like them, he can add an impact fee, property tax or higher sales tax in the future.”
Any such changes in the future would have to be approved by voters before being implemented.
Commissioner Tom Long agreed with Lindstrom, saying the idea of an impact fee was too contentious. He isn’t even sure the smaller sales tax will fly.
“I’ve had a number of calls from people who still believe even the nickel on a $100 purchase is too much,” he said. “At this point, let the people decide.”
Currently, the SHA is funded by donations from the county, towns and ski areas. That funding arrangement ends this year, and Ferris has spent most of the past year coming up with a plan to keep the SHA going. He still has a few steps to take to get the .05 of 1 percent sales tax to the ballot.
The county commissioners and the Silverthorne Town Council have agreed to form a multi-jurisdictional housing authority, required to certify the question. The other towns haven’t yet agreed to jump on the multi-jurisdictional housing authority bandwagon. But the two-member group hasn’t formally been created.
“We have to form it, have the first meeting to approve the ballot question, and, by next Friday, the question needs to be certified and on the ballot,” Ferris said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then.
“Then, we have our work cut out for us as to educate the folks in Summit County as to what that 50 cents for a $1,000 in retail sales will buy them. And what it will buy them is continued operation of a very efficient housing authority that’s helped thousands of Summit County residents purchase a home and find housing that’s within their means in Summit County.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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