Basalt leans toward seeking 1 percent hike in sales taxes
Basalt voters likely will be asked in November to approve a 1 percent sales tax increase that could raise at least $1 million annually.The Basalt Town Council members indicated unanimously Tuesday night that they want to place the tax increase on the ballot. It would increase the town’s share of the sales tax from 2 to 3 percent. However, members said they want to enlist a citizens committee to help decide possible uses for the revenues before approaching voters.The potential uses seem to be the key to the question’s fate. A prior council got cold feet about placing the question on the May ballot because critics contended the proposed uses were too open-ended. At that time, the revenues could have been used for everything from open space purchases to street repairs.Critics, including some former members of the council, said voters should know what they are buying into. They said that including street work could doom the proposal because voters would fear that would gobble all the revenues.Basalt Town Manager Bill Efting said Tuesday that street work remains controversial. The tax hike seems more secure if revenues would be limited to parks, open space and trails projects, he said.”If you listen to the people on the street, there’s a lot of support for it,” Efting said. “You know which [uses] are hitting the buzzes.”Mayor Leroy Duroux wasn’t as eager to drop street work from the list of potential uses. In some cases, construction of a trail affects a street. In those cases, he said, the town should be able to use the new funds rather than take money out of the general fund.Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said he understood Duroux’s point but felt that too expansive a list of uses could sink the ballot proposal. He said a key reason he decided to run for office in May was to help the town acquire more open space, develop parks, build trails and implement flood control measures and other projects along its rivers. He said he felt those types of projects would be “politically popular” with residents. It is more difficult to earn support for uses like street repairs, he said.Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the only uses that should be tied to the tax increase proposal were open space, parks and trails, while Councilwoman Laurie Dows said she didn’t want to dismiss any potential uses yet.The council has plenty time to figure out what its ballot question will say. The town must notify the clerks of Pitkin and Eagle counties by July 28 that it plans to put a tax-hike question on the ballot. However, exact wording for the ballot question isn’t due until Sept. 8.The council decided to ask a citizens committee to contemplate the potential uses for the tax revenues before the September deadline.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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