Basalt eyes sales tax hike for parks, trails
The majority of Basalt residents say they want more trails, parks and open space. The Town Council now may ask them to put their money where their mouths are.
The Basalt Town Council will debate today whether to seek voter approval for a sales-tax increase to pay for the amenities. If so, the council must decide whether to rush the question onto an April ballot or wait until November, said Town Manager Bill Efting.
A community survey the town government conducted last year sparked the initiative. In that survey, 51 percent of voters contacted said they strongly support the town’s construction of more pedestrian and bike trails; 27 percent were somewhat supportive. Only 3 percent were opposed and 5 percent were somewhat opposed.
In a different question, 57 percent of voters surveyed said they strongly or somewhat support the town’s purchase of riverfront properties, while 17 percent were strongly or somewhat opposed.
Efting said the council will ponder a 1 percent sales tax increase, which would add a penny onto each dollar of a purchase. The town’s sales tax is 2 percent. The extra 1 percent could raise about $1 million annually, based on 2005 performance.
Efting said Basalt’s current rate compares favorably to other towns in the Roaring Fork Valley and along the Interstate 70 corridor. Snowmass Village, Carbondale, New Castle and Rifle are at 3.5 percent, and Glenwood Springs is at 3.7 percent; Avon, Eagle and Vail are at 4 percent. Aspen is at 2.2 percent, although its sales tax raises considerably more because of volume. Silt is at 3 percent.
If the council decides to seek the sales tax increase, it will be vital to earmark specific uses for the funds, Efting said. Voters want to know the money will go toward specific purposes “instead of raising my salary” or disappearing into the general fund, he said.
A notice for today’s public meeting indicates uses will be a little more broad than trails and parks, however. “The sale tax increase will be used to fund capital improvement projects such as trails, parks, open space, road improvements and river stabilization,” the notice said.
Voters have shown they support taxes to buy and preserve land. Basalt voters approved a property tax increase for trails and open space in 2001. Efting said he believes it’s possible to make a good case that Basalt used the open space revenues wisely in buying the Levinson property, which the town converted into a popular riverside park.
The special meeting is at 5 p.m. today in Town Hall. It is open to the public.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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