SHA tax proposal lives or dies Monday
SUMMIT COUNTY – Gordon Ferris will be put to the test Monday. The director of the Summit Housing Authority (SHA) will go before the Summit Board of County Commissioners to ask, for the last time, for their support on a proposed November ballot initiative.
If he gets it, a plan to fund the SHA – most likely through a combination of a sales tax and a fee on new construction – will go on the ballot. If not, eight months of Ferris’ work goes down the tubes.
A “no’ from the commissioners doesn’t spell the end for the SHA, however. The county and local municipalities have told Ferris they’ll continue to support the SHA, much as they do now. But he is seeking a steady, independent source of financial support – one that puts an end to his yearly treks to council meetings and ski area boardrooms during which he extends his hand for donation checks.
Ferris needs the support of the county and at least one jurisdiction to put the question on the ballot. So far, Silverthorne is on board. Breckenridge has given reluctant support. Dillon council, while against the construction fee, supports the idea of putting the proposal to a vote, Ferris said. Frisco council, while mixed in its opinions on the source of funding, also agrees it’s OK with letting the commissioners and Silverthorne send the funding question to a vote, he said.
“I have support from every town council about putting it on the ballot, but every one of them is different about what to put on the ballot,” Ferris said. “You’re never going to satisfy five different parties 100 percent.”
Under legislation passed this year, municipalities can create a multi-jurisdictional 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 – a date that’s rapidly approaching.
So far, a multi-jurisdictional housing authority doesn’t even exist. But the Silverthorne Town Council’s and the commissioners’ support Monday would make the creation of that group possible.
It’s not just the funding source that’s creating controversy. Under the proposal, 60 percent of funds raised in any jurisdiction will remain restricted for use within that jurisdiction for three years. The remaining 40 percent could be used anywhere within the boundaries of the SHA. After three years, however, unspent funds would be freed up for general SHA use.
Commissioner Tom Long said last week he has concerns not only about the 60/40 split, but about putting a question to a vote when not all the towns support it. If controversy continues, the sales tax and new construction fee could be assessed on entities that never supported the funding plan in the first place.
“I don’t see, without 40 years of litigation, how the county and one town can put taxes on the other towns,” Long said. “We’re not going to live through that fight. Who’s going to defend the housing authority when Breckenridge is suing everybody in sight because the county and Silverthorne put a tax on them. I see that battle looming on the horizon.”
Commissioner Gary Lindstrom agreed.
“I think it’s wrong to back door it, to put it on the ballot and work out the details later,” he said. “If you put it on the ballot, it will pass and we’ll spend the rest of our lives trying to explain how it works.”
“There are a lot of issues that need to be hammered out,” agreed Commissioner Bill Wallace, “but I guess I feel comfortable with the housing authority board working out these other issues before the election.”
Ferris said he’s not worried about Monday’s meeting.
“Nervous isn’t the right word,” he said. “I am anticipating approval and I look forward to the campaign.”
The most recent discussions about the ballot question focus on the idea of a sales tax of 7.5 cents per $100 purchase and an impact fee of 45 cents per square foot. That would bring about $1.2 million a year to the SHA. Ferris originally proposed a sales tax increase of .15 of 1 percent, an amount that would also generate about $1.2 million annually. Ferris and the commissioners will likely decide Monday which – if either – of the two funding proposals they’ll pursue.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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