What to know about Summit County tax-related ballot measures 1A and 1B
Both will allocate tax revenue for public programs and resources across the county
With Election Day approaching, voters hold power this year on tax-related questions posed by Summit County government.
Along with choosing candidates for local and state government, on the ballot next week are a few measures that renew existing taxes or create new ones. Summit County Measure 1A and Summit County Measure 1B are two questions that voters will see this year as ballots come due next week.
Summit County Measure 1A
Earlier this year, state Rep. Dylan Roberts passed a bill that allowed counties across Colorado to implement a lodging tax that allowed more flexibility in which the tax revenue could be spent. Though counties were allowed to implement lodging taxes before, 100% of the revenue generated from the previous lodging tax was mandated to go directly into marketing and advertising toward tourism.
Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said that when she assumed her role as commissioner, it was her goal to change the mandate. Lawrence believed counties could use that revenue for different, more-pressing matters, she said.
“I think the state finally saw that, look, we’re being penalized at the county level. I don’t need to set up an advertising department,” Lawrence said. “What I do need to do is work on providing more workforce housing.”
In May, the bill was signed into law, allowing counties to implement a lodging tax with the freedom to use revenue for different purposes. Now that the law has been passed, Lawrence said county voters have to approve the lodging tax for it to be implemented in Summit.
This new ballot measure proposes that a 2% excise lodging tax be implemented across unincorporated Summit County, which are areas outside of town limits since those already have the ability to pass their own taxes. The new tax would apply to the price charged for any rental, sale or furnishing of a room or accommodation for a short-term period, according to past reporting. A short-term period includes any rental that lasts less than 30 consecutive days.
Lawrence said she’d like to use 90% of the revenue to go toward childcare and workforce housing, with only 10% reserved for marketing and advertising.
Lawrence said this tax is not one that would be paid by locals since customers who are visiting Summit and using lodging services would have the tax applied to their lodging price.
“I really look at this is a great way of supporting small businesses,” Lawrence said.
She explained that many small business owners don’t have a way to provide housing or childcare for their employees. If this ballot measure passes, however, the county could put the tax revenue toward a Keystone Childcare Center and more workforce housing for those small businesses, Lawrence argued.
Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers executive director Julie Koster said she and her group fully support the ballot measure.
“We appreciate that it’s fair and equitable across all lodging in unincorporated county,” Koster said. “We think that the intention behind it and where the funds will be used is really positive for the community. And that’s something that we want to support.”
Summit County Measure 1B
An important aspect of this ballot is that it will not raise taxes, Commissioner Tamara Pogue assured. Measure 1B is intended to extend tax collections for public safety infrastructure.
This ballot measure was already passed in 2014. At the time, the ballot measure asked folks to vote on a property tax increase that would go toward supporting emergency services.
This means, if approved, a specific portion of property tax collections would continue to be allocated for public safety use in the form of a 2.391 mill tax levy.
Pogue said that money can help to fund 911 dispatch infrastructure, public health, water quality, law enforcement and also wildfire emergency response.
“It’s really just allowing us to continue public safety work that we already have,” Pogue added.
Pogue said this ballot initiative is important as the county sees increases in tourism, which creates more demand on public safety.
“Making sure we have enough folks in dispatch to answer 911 calls, making sure that our S.M.A.R.T team is funded moving forward, making sure we have enough dollars for actual wildfire response … that critical infrastructure, having those dollars just to support tourism and our locals is really important,” Pogue said.
Though both ballot measures are targeted toward the community, some folks are worried about the tax and how revenue will be allocated. Although written comments in support of the measures took up nearly a page in Summit County’s publication that educates voters on ballot initiatives, those who submitted comments in opposition kept their argument concise.
“I am against any ballot issues that call for tax increases in Summit County,” read the statement published in opposition of both measures.
Chair of Summit County Republican Central Committee, Mike Tabb, said he will be voting no on both ballot measures and shared his thoughts on why he does not support passing them.
Though he said the measures are both important in their own respects, Tabb said he was left wanting more information about how the funds would be used.
“Both of these are legitimate concerns of our community,” Tabb said. “I’m just not convinced that we have a solid financial plan on how you’re going to apply the money.”
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