Carbondale mulls extending downtown improvements tax |

Carbondale mulls extending downtown improvements tax

CARBONDALE – Town leaders may ask voters in the fall to extend a 1.5 mil special Carbondale property tax that expires after this year.

For the past 10 years, the tax has paid for a range of downtown beautification projects, including the brick streetscape at six Main Street intersections, places for public artwork, new streetlights and trees.

Future use of the tax, if voters agree to extend it, could include continued infrastructure improvements. Or, it could be used for other designated needs, such as affordable housing, a local shuttle bus system, help with building a new town library, and historic preservation.

“We do have the opportunity to go to voters in November to ask for re-authorization of the tax,” Town Manager Tom Baker advised the Carbondale Board of Trustees at their Jan. 19 meeting.

The tax was approved, albeit by a narrow-thin margin, in 1999 and went into effect in January of 2000. It ends at the end of this year unless voters agree to extend it for a specific purpose.

The tax has yielded about $175,000 per year, although the take for this year will be larger, about $236,000, because of the higher property valuations, Carbondale Finance Director Nancy Barnett indicated.

It would most likely adjust downward when property valuations are determined again next year, she said.

Trustees generally agreed that voters should at least be afforded the opportunity to extend the tax. How the money may be used, and stated in the form of a ballot question, will be the subject of future conversations.

Town staff will prepare some specific use options for which the tax could be used and present them to the board this spring.

One idea is a town-wide shuttle, or “feeder” bus system, proposed by Trustees John Hoffmann and Ed Cortez. It would allow the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service to function more efficiently by providing a feeder system to serve a larger area of town beyond the current RFTA loop, and tie in with the valleywide bus system.

“The concept would require RFTA to fund the [buses and maintenance], and the town would fund driver salary and benefits,” according to a town memo outlining the proposal.

“The numbers are very conceptual,” Cortez said. “But it’s important to have a plan in place when RFTA is ready to move forward with BRT in 2012.”

Trustee Frosty Merriott said the bus system is a good idea, but may be several years off. He said he would prefer to see the money used to assist the town’s affordable housing efforts.

“A dedicated funding source for community housing is a must,” he said. “To delay on asking for extension of the 1.5 mil levy would just allow other [tax proposals] to get ahead of us. I don’t want to see us give it up, personally.”

A volunteer Housing Advisory Group has been working to identify ways to create affordable housing in Carbondale without being solely reliant on development mitigation.

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