School district, county prepping tax proposals
EAGLE COUNTY — Eagle County taxpayers may decide at least three tax increase questions in November.
Eagle County Schools has for some time made no secret that it’s going to ask for more money. A grassroots campaign started last year and was the focus of last November’s school board election. Increase supporters won seats on the board.
More recently, the Eagle County commissioners have been kicking around possible sales tax increases for affordable workforce housing and child care.
Then there’s an increased lift ticket tax in Vail. At its last meeting, Vail Town Council member Dick Cleveland tossed out the idea of doubling the lift ticket tax. That money – another $4.7 million to go with the $4.7 million Vail already collects – would pay for parking. The council is set to review details of that proposal at its regular meeting on Tuesday.
School district’s two-pronged proposal
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In a letter going out to school district residents this week, the district lays out some details for its two-pronged proposal:
An additional $8 million a year for the school district’s operating budget. That would raise property taxes about $9.50 a month on a $500,000 home. That would be reduced by the amount of any increase in state funding. It also has a sunset provision that would give voters to chance to cut it off in 2023.
A $144-million bond measure for facility needs, such as replacing roofs, adding security at school entrances, adding classroom space at Eagle Valley High School to accommodate current growth and renovating and reconstructing the district’s three oldest buildings — Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail, and Eagle Valley Elementary School and Eagle Valley Middle School in Eagle. The bond would mean a property tax increase of about $7.20 per month on a $500,000 home.
If voters approve both, the property tax increase would be $16.70 a month for a $500,000 home.
When the recession hit in 2008, the school district shed 90 jobs because of state budget cuts. In a recent letter to residents, Superintendent Jason Glass said the solution is local; the state won’t be much help.
“Eagle County Schools significantly reduced staffing levels and programs for students during the recession,” Glass wrote. “Now, it is clear that no answer is coming from the state level and our schools will never return to pre-recession levels without a local solution.”
The school board will keep talking about the proposals during its Aug. 10 meeting and is scheduled to vote Aug. 24 whether or not to put the measures on the November ballot.
workforce housing tax?
The county commissioners — Democrats Jill Ryan, Jeanne McQueeney and Kathy Chandler-Henry — have kicked around the idea of a pair of 0.3 percent sales tax increases.
At current retail sales rates, each one would generate an additional $4.8 million per year, for $9.6 million total, according to the county’s calculations.
That would more than double the annual sales tax revenue for the county’s general fund, the checking account through which it does its day-to-day business.
McQueeney said the commissioners are not positive they’re going forward with any tax proposal. They also still have to determine what form the proposal would take and how much the commissioners might ask taxpayers to approve. They’ll talk about it over lunch during Tuesday’s regular meeting, then dedicate almost all day to it on Aug. 8. Both meetings are open to the public.
The commissioners have hired a polling firm to gauge public opinion. So far, workforce housing is seeing 64 percent approval among those responding. Child care is polling at 61 percent approval.
The county paid $50,000 of the $75,000 tab for the child care research. The school district picked up the remaining $25,000. The affordable housing research cost the county $5,000.
“This is the year for affordable housing, without a doubt. People are clamoring for it,” McQueeney said.
How a county sales tax increase would play on the same ballot as the school district’s proposal is also a consideration because, McQueeney said, the school district needs the money.
The commissioners have until early September to decide, but will probably make the call soon after their Aug. 8 meeting, McQueeney said.
Tax the tickets
Vail needs more parking, and doubling the lift ticket tax would be one way to pay for it.
“The only way we’re going to get (help from Vail Resorts) is to force them,” Vail Town Council member Dick Cleveland said during July 19 where he made the suggestion.
Cleveland is a long-time advocate for more parking in town.
The town council is beginning its discussion with possibly doubling the lift ticket tax. Vail collected $4.7 million from lift ticket taxes in 2015, about 7 percent of the town’s revenue that year.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.