Outlook can cost towns money | VailDaily.com

Outlook can cost towns money

Kathy Heicher

Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney says people have a tendency to assume that fast population growth means an equally fast increase in town revenues.”That is just not so,” said Stavney, noting that statewide, property tax accounts for 14 percent of municipal revenues.”Colorado governments are extremely sales tax dependent, and Eagle is no different,” he says. Unless Gov. Bill Owens and Colorado legislators attempt to radically overhaul the tax structure in Colorado, sales tax revenues will continue to be the locomotive that pay for residential services and the overhead operating costs of town governments. While downtown redevelopment can bolster community character, and can make downtown Eagle an attraction, there is not enough space either downtown or in Eagle Ranch for a sales tax engine, Stavney says. “Currently our sales tax leakage is embarrassing. Nobody comes to Eagle to buy; and most Eagle citizens shop elsewhere for everything but groceries … all that has to change,” Stavney says. That’s one of the reasons the Town Board has spent the last several months in detailed review of the proposed Red Mountain Ranch development, which has the potential to bring in a big box store, and related sales tax revenues. Stavney admits preserving the community character will be a “tightrope act.””Talk to our town engineer about the scope of traffic-related issues coming our way in the next 10 years. Talk to the town manager about unfunded federal mandates, and rising expectations for municipal services,” Stavney said. “Residents want more from Eagle than they did 10 years ago.”Despite impact fees and developer improvement contributions, the infrastructure needs exceed the available revenues, he adds. “It is becoming clear that residential growth does not pay its own way. In fact, it is quietly very expensive,” Stavney says.That fact poses some challenging questions for town decision-makers. Stavney says Red Mountain Ranch offers an opportunity for establishing a commercial base that doesn’t exist in Eagle. Still, he says, the prospect of the project is daunting and big box stores are not the only answer. Yet, he cautions that people must “realistic.””I love Eagle and what it has been, but we have to look forward to solutions rather than backwards with sentimentality,” Stavney says. “Today, we have a disconnect on our quality of life expectations and the revenue streams that provide solutions.”Allen Best contributed to this story.Vail, Colorado

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