Taxes, marijuana fill county’s voting ballot
November 4, 2013
You can vote twice…
But only if you live in Vail. Voters in Vail who haven’t voted early, or by mail, can vote twice, in two places, on two state tax questions and a Vail Town Council election. If you live in Vail and still need to vote, you can drop off your county ballot at the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s office in Avon, then vote for town council at town hall.
EAGLE COUNTY — For an "off-year," this election season has been pretty busy, if for no reason other than the well-funded allies of the most prominent issue, a proposed state constitutional amendment.
Here's a look at that proposal, as well as the other, local, items on this fall's ballot:
• Supporters of Amendment 66 , have poured more than $10 million into the campaign for a statewide tax increase. That increase, which could go to fund a new system of state funding for public schools and preschools, establishes a two-tier income tax rate for Colorado taxpayers. If the amendment passes, then the state's income tax rate will rise from 4.63 to 5 percent for people with state-taxable income of $75,000 or less. The rate rises to 5.9 percent for taxpayers with higher incomes. The amendment would raise nearly $1 billion (estimated) in its first year.
• The other state issue is Proposition AA. It's another tax increase, but targeted at the state's nascent retail marijuana industry. Referred to voters by the Colorado Legislature, this the revenue portion of 2012's Amendment 64, which legalized the possession, use and retail sale of recreational marijuana. Amendment 64's primary promise was the creation of a new revenue stream for the state's public-school construction fund. Proposition AA, if passed, will impose a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sold by growers to retailers, and another 10 percent sales tax on retail sales. The ballot measure anticipates raising $70 million the first year. Of that, $40 million would go toward school construction, with the rest dedicated to regulation and enforcement.
• Locally, there are four seats available this year on the Vail Town Council. Two seats are held by incumbents Susie Tjossem and Greg Moffet, who are seeking re-election. The other two seats — currently held by Kevin Foley and Kerry Donovan — are open. Foley is prohibited from running again due to town term-limit rules. Kerry gave up her seat in order to run next year for the Colorado Senate.
The other candidates running this year are Dale Bugby, Jenn Bruno, Sounia Nejad Chaney, Meighen Lovelace and Dave Chapin.
• The town of Avon has put Ballot Issue 2A before voters this year. This measure renews a property tax first approved to pay for the town's roundabouts on Avon Road. Those bonds are nearly paid off, and town officials are asking voters to approve continuing the tax in order to pay for an expansion of the town's recreation center, improvements at Nottingham Park and other park projects around town.
Eagle is asking voters two questions this fall, both focused on marijuana.
• Ballot Question 2E asks voters whether the town should allow retail sales and cultivation of marijuana.
• Ballot Issue 2F asks voters to impose a $5 fee on all retail marijuana sales.
• Red Cliff is asking voters about pot, too, but town officials say a property tax question is more important.
That question, Ballot Issue 2H, asks voters for a property tax increase that would raise an estimated $107,592 in the first year. That amount is roughly equal to the money the town spends each year on payments for its water-system debt. Town officials say the decrease in county-assessed property values in the past two cycles has nearly halved the town's revenue. If voters decline the tax increase — estimated at roughly $100 on an average-value home in town — then officials say residents' water bills will have to increase by nearly $600 per year to keep paying the debt on the water system.
The marijuana question, Ballot Issue 2G, would impose a 5 percent sales tax on all retail marijuana sales. That's in addition to the town's existing sales tax and the potential state taxes imposed by Proposition AA. Meanwhile, a group of residents is working to force an election to ban retail marijuana operations in town.
• Like other taxing districts that rely on property taxes, the Gypsum Fire Protection District has seen its revenue fall during the past two county property valuation cycles. The district in 2012 asked voters for a property tax increase, but that proposal was rejected. This year the district has returned to voters with a more specific program.
If voters agree, property taxes in the district will rise by roughly $360,000 in the first year. That money would be used for general operations, as well as gear for firefighters, equipment, station upkeep and repairing the concrete floor at the fire station.