Edwards seeks tax hike | VailDaily.com

Edwards seeks tax hike

Five facts:

• The Edwards Metropolitan District is asking district voters for a 1 percent sales tax increase.

• If passed, the tax would raise as much as $950,000 per year.

• First use of the funds would be improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and the Edwards Spur Road.

• Ballots will be mailed to district voters and must be returned by May 3.

• The district includes these neighborhoods: Homestead, Lake Creek Village, Edwards River Village, Brett Ranch, Cordillera Valley Club, Creamery Ranch, Lake Creek, the Reserve, Old Edwards Estates, Miller Ranch.

EDWARDS — Voters in much of Edwards will be asked this spring for a sales tax to help fund road improvements along U.S. Highway 6.

Edwards is in unincorporated Eagle County, and the county provides police protection and road maintenance, but the Edwards Metropolitan District performs some government functions, too. It’s the metro district that’s asking for the 1 percent sales tax increase. If voters in the district approve the proposal, the tax would generate around $900,000 per year.

The first $1.5 million of revenue would go toward improvements at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and the Edwards Spur Road. At this point, there are a couple of options for improvements — a roundabout or road widening with a traffic signal. Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan said county and state officials will select a preferred alternative for the work this spring.

Either project is currently estimated at about $15 million. The bulk of that cost — 80 percent — would come from the Colorado Department of Transportation, since U.S. Highway 6 is maintained and administered by the state. The transportation department insists on at least a 20 percent community contribution for new projects. Eagle County has agreed to fund 10 percent of the project, leaving the Edwards community to fund the remaining 10 percent.

If the community contribution is available, the intersection project, as well as other improvements north of the Interstate 70 interchange — including intersection work at the entrance to the rest area and Old Edwards Estates — will get done, starting in 2018.

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How funding works

The state has a transportation project funding priority list for different regions of Colorado. The work in Edwards is in the third spot on the list for this five-county region. Only the top three projects are funded. Projects without adequate local funding are skipped and must go through the process again.

“Once you understand how the funding works, you understand how important it is to get this done,” Ryan said.

Other Improvements

Beyond the spur road project, there’s a lot of other work to do in Edwards. The biggest of those is between the Eagle River Village mobile home park and Squaw Creek Road.

The state assigns letter grades to the level of service along highways. The stretch including Hillcrest Drive, the entrance to the Lake Creek Village apartments, has several “F” grades for both morning and evening commuter times.

Todd Williams, a candidate for the metro district board this spring and a member of the Edwards Community Authority — a group of the six metro districts that serve the area — is among those lobbying for the tax increase. Williams said there are no agreements in place for improvements along that part of the highway. But, he said, the community, county and state are working on what is essentially a handshake deal to work together on future improvements.

That work includes lobbying for projects at the five-county transportation region meetings, something Ryan said the commissioners are very involved in promoting.

Williams, a longtime Edwards resident, said he’s seen the county’s involvement in Edwards improve over the years.

“Ten or 15 years ago, the county didn’t pay much attention to Edwards — they wished we’d incorporate (as a town),” Williams said. “The county being willing to work with us today is a big step.”

How much is this?

While tax increases can always be touchy subjects with voters, backers of this proposal say even a 1 percent increase keeps Edwards-area sales taxes among the lowest in the county.

The sales tax rates in Vail, Avon and Eagle are currently 8.4 percent. The rate is 9.55 percent at the Village at Avon, which has a special assessment to fund improvements in the area.

Even with a 1 percent boost, the sales tax at virtually every business in Edwards will be 5.4 percent. The rate is 4.4 percent in Eagle-Vail. But, Williams said, the businesses in those two areas are different.

“The things you go to Eagle-Vail for, you don’t find in Edwards,” Williams said.

Ken Marchetti, whose firm provides administrative management for most of the metro districts in Vail Valley, said there was at first some debate about whether to ask for a property tax or sales tax increase. The decision to move forward with a sales tax was based on the fact that a sales tax would collect revenue from the entire area. A property tax would collect money only from property owners in the Edwards Metropolitan District, which is only a portion of the entire community.

While the immediate improvements would require less than two years’ worth of tax collections, Williams said the idea for the tax is to create a fund to help pay for maintenance in the future.

“I think the benefit here is really far-reaching,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

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