Summit Leadership Forum doesn’t support SHA’s sales tax proposal
SUMMIT COUNTY – Local leaders aren’t enthusiastic about a proposed sales tax to support the Summit Housing Authority (SHA), they told SHA Director Gordon Ferris during a Thursday meeting of the Summit Leadership Forum.
Town and county officials told Ferris they want to see some other proposals, among them the idea of a smaller sales tax combined with an impact fee.
An impact fee is a tax on new construction and, in this case, would exempt deed-restricted or affordable housing.
The housing group had planned to ask voters in November for a sales tax increase of .15 of 1 percent, an amount that will generate about $1.2 million annually – enough to allow the SHA to continue its current programs and create more affordable housing than it’s capable of doing now. Ferris said a poll conducted by an independent company showed this idea has support, while the reaction to an impact fee or increased property taxes was not as favorable.
Ferris said the polling company is credible and reputed to be accurate, but local leaders such as Breckenridge Mayor Sam Mamula think a sales tax might not be the best way to go.
“The Summit Housing Authority didn’t give us an option,” Mamula said. “We should have been given all the options to take back to our town councils. I didn’t think it was fair for them to say it’s sales tax, and not sales tax and impact fees, or not sales tax and property tax or whatever.
“I think it’s absolutely imperative we find a steady income stream to support the Summit Housing Authority. I don’t think they should have to go begging to the communities every year (for funding). I think what they’re doing is the right thing. In fact, they’re doing precisely what the Leadership Forum has asked them to do. I think (Ferris’) mistake was coming to us with the decision already made as to what the funding source would be.”
Ferris said he’s got the message that the ballot question needs more finessing. But he said he’s not discouraged. He believes a ballot question regarding funding for the Summit Housing Authority will appear on the November ballot. But just what that funding proposal will be remains to be seen.
“The majority of the Leadership Forum wasn’t happy with our proposal,” he said. “The clear message we’ve had from the towns is just sales tax alone is not palatable. Our challenge now is to see if there is any level of support in the development community for any level of impact fee, no matter how small. But by adding an impact fee, we’re most likely going to pick a fight with the development community.
“We’re trying to build consensus here. That’s our mission. Everybody acknowledges the problem, but not everybody agrees on the way to address the problem.”
In the next couple of months, Ferris plans to go before each town council and seek their opinions on the issue. But the work has to be done by early September. By then, the question must be presented for the ballot, Ferris said.
Silverthorne Mayor Lou DelPiccolo thinks Ferris has his work cut out for him. While the Silverthorne council has yet to meet and discuss the issue to form an opinion, he pointed out it’s a tough time to ask for more money from people.
“I don’t know if Silverthorne or anyone else would support any form of a tax, given the circumstances we have – a very soft economy, a lot of uncertainty, all kinds of corporate scandals, the stock market in the toilet,” he said. “Revenues are declining. Our taxes took a jolt from the increase in the last election. So I think whether any tax will pass is quite questionable.”
Despite the response from the Leadership Forum, Ferris isn’t deterred.
“I always try to look at the bright side,” Ferris said, “and what I got (from the forum) was, “Keep the process moving forward, but you’re not there yet.'”
The SHA needs the support of local municipalities.
It is funded now by the county, towns and ski areas, with the authority picking up the remainder of the tab. That joint funding agreement ends with this calendar year.
A Colorado House Bill passed this year enables multijurisdictional housing authorities to access revenue streams, such as sales tax. While the SHA partners with several jurisdictions on its funding and many of its projects, it is not a multijurisdictional housing authority. It’s working to become that way.
That means asking the local town councils and county commissioners to participate in a multijurisdictional authority, which the SHA will do this summer. If town and county officials agree to jump on the bandwagon, the SHA can ask voters for tax revenue.
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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