Building tax makes Avon’s ballot
Despite opposition from builders, a 4 percent “use tax” on all building supplies used in Avon was placed on the November ballot Tuesday by a split 4-3 vote of the Town Council.
“I don’t see it as a tax on the construction industry. I see it as a tax on growth,” said Town Councilman Mac McDevitt, who joined fellow council members Debbie Buckley and Brian Sipes –who are all running for reelection in November – in voting to put the tax on the ballot.
Councilmen Mike Brown, Pete Buckley and Buz Reynolds voted “no.”
Mayor Judy Yoder broke the tie.
“I also agree it’s a growth issue,” Yoder said. “The voters should decide and growth should pay it’s own way.”
Builders like George Plavec have complained the tax singles out their industry.
“It still seems as if the use tax is unfairly targeting one group to pay for expenses that should be shared by all of us,” Plavec said.
If voters pass the tax, the town would use a portion of the revenues to support its ailing, free bus system, which is losing about $900,000 a year. Avon Finance Director Steve Wright has said the town could collect as much as $500,000 a year from the use tax. Earlier this summer, the Town Council put off charging $1 fares for bus rides.
Builders, however, say they shouldn’t be responsible for funding an ailing bus system.
“Generally, we don’t use buses that much,” Plavec said. “Buses don’t run to where our building projects are.”
Reynolds agreed, saying bus riders should pay for buses.
“The people using the transit system should be paying for the transit system,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think I’ve ever ridden a town of Avon bus, yet I’ve been paying for them for a long time.”
He said he also voted against the use tax because construction costs have tripled in the last decade.
“The bottom line is the cost of construction in this valley has just gone crazy,” Reynolds said.
Debbie Buckley, meanwhile, said the town has to do something to curb its surging budget deficit, which for 2002 is more than $600,000. Extensive spending cuts are expected in 2003.
“I feel very strongly that it’s really up to the voters to decide on this issue,” Debbie Buckley said. “We’re going to have to make some hard choices between services and taxes.”
If the town’s revenues continue to sink, the Town Council might have to make some changes at the popular Avon Recreation Center, too, such as closing the facility earlier in the day.
“I also think (the use tax) is the right thing for Avon,” she said. “I’ve been told I’ll lose votes in the upcoming election for endorsing this, but I’m not going to do the wrong thing just for votes.”
Brown said the town was “having a panic attack” over the mounting deficits and that the use tax would be a hassle.
“I think it’s unequal and unfair taxation,” Brown said. “If a young couple who wants to build a house in Wildridge has to make an extra trip to the town of Avon, they’re just going to go to Edwards.”
Pete Buckley, protesting the tax, even returned his paycheck from last month to the town’s treasury.
“We need to try other things before we raise taxes,” he said. “It’s important that we do our jobs and look at taxes as a last resort.”
Sipes, however, said the use tax would help the town deal with expansion that’s certain to occur in the future.
“I don’t think growth is over,” Sipes said. “Let’s not forget the town doubled when the Village at Avon was annexed.”
How the “use tax’ would work
Wright once described how the use tax would work:
– If voters approve the tax, when a builder applies for a permit the town would assess the total cost of the work and assume 50 percent of that will be spent on building materials.
– The builder then would pay 4 percent of that estimate, getting a receipt from the town showing the tax has been paid.
– When the builder goes to buy the materials, the builder would show the receipt when paying and be exempt from any local sales tax.
– Note: Builder George Plavec however, says that on his last five projects the cost of building materials has only been about 35 percent of the total cost of construction.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.