Is Edwards paying its way?
EDWARDS ” The answer is, “not even close.”
The question to that answer is, “Does Eagle County collect in taxes from Edwards what it spends in the area?”
In 2004, the most recent year for which numbers are available, Edwards put about $5.6 million into the county’s bank accounts. That includes property and sales tax collections, and Eagle County Finance Director Mike Roeper also figured in a portion of grant money and airport revenues based on Edwards’ population of about 10,500 ” 22 percent of the county total.
Using the same population formulas, Roeper determined that county spending in Edwards in 2004 added up to $12.1 million. That year was a little high on the spending side, with the county paying $2 million for projects at Miller Ranch. Spending in a typical recent year is roughly $10 million.
That’s food for thought in the continuing debate ” one that’s at a low ebb at the moment ” over whether Edwards should become a town.
For Johnnette Phillips, the answer has always been simple.
“I really feel if Edwards wants good representation, it should become a town,” said Phillips, a former Eagle County commissioner. But, with Edwards resident Peter Runyon and Avon resident Arn Menconi as county commissioners, Phillips said the area is already represented pretty well in Eagle.
“There would be a closer working relationship between citizens and their government,” Phillips said. “But there are people who feel the increase in taxes isn’t worth it.”
David Lach is one of those people. Lach has been a member of the Edwards Metropolitan District board since the 1980s. When it comes to governing Edwards, he’s a firm believer that less is more.
“I’ve always been a believer in not duplicating services,” Lach said. “But I do believe in carrying our weight.”
Lach said he’d rather see something like an additional mill levy to help pay for county services instead of raising taxes enough to build a town hall, buy equipment and hire employees.
But how much would taxes go up for a town of Edwards’ size? If Avon’s tax rate is any indication, not a lot.
The Vail Daily’s real estate classifieds list similar townhomes for sale in Avon and Edwards. Both townhomes are similar in size and in assessed value. The home in Avon, which had the lower assessed value, pays about $90 per year more in property taxes than the one in Edwards. That’s about $30 a year for every $100 in assessed value.
The big differences is in sales taxes, where most towns in Colorado make most of their money.
Shoppers in Edwards pay 4.4 percent of every dollar in sales tax. In Avon, shoppers pay 8.4 percent in most of town, and 8.7 percent at Home Depot and Wal-Mart in the Village at Avon.
The idea of lower taxes right next door grates on one Avon businessman.
“Each community should pay its fair share,” said Bob Borg of the Avon Business Association. “There should be equity in funding amenities.”
From Borg’s perspective, a number of businesses now in Edwards should have come to Avon instead.
“It’s kind of stymied development here,” he said.
Where the people are
But the cost of doing business didn’t play much of a role in Arch Wright’s decision to open his office in Edwards.
“Edwards just seems like it’s very vibrant and growing,” said Wright, owner of Wright Mortgage Company. “There’s a good mix of energy between locals and second-home owners. And I live in Edwards, so it’s easy to get to the office.”
And at this point, Edwards is where the people are.
“We pay higher rent in Edwards for a smaller space than our Avon store, but the Edwards store makes more money,” said Cara Denning, a co-owner of the UPS Store in Edwards, Avon and Vail. The store in Edwards also has steadier business through the year, Denning said.
Beyond people, though, Edwards may simply be an easier place to shop or eat.
“Avon’s spread out in basically three centers: west of Avon Road, east of Avon Road and the Village at Avon,” local architect Tab Bonidy said. “Edwards is very consolidated around one intersection.”
That consolidation makes it easy to go from one place to another, Bonidy said, drawing people from places beyond Edwards.
“Even those of us that live in Avon, when it’s time to out, we go to Edwards,” he said.
And, for now, a lot of people in Edwards seem satisfied with things the way they are.
But, Phillips said, things could be better, especially when it comes to Highway 6 and the road that links it to Interstate 70.
“They get attention about that, because there’s a vocal group that speaks up,” Phillips said. “But I still think some of those metro district board members would be excellent town board members.
“But some people will never vote to incorporate,” Phillips said. “They’re getting a real good deal now.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado
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