Street work, jobs cut after last tax failed
VAIL ” This isn’t the first time Vail has gone to voters to try to solve a shortfall in its budget for roads and buildings.
In 2002, voters shot down a property tax increase by a 851-796 vote. The tax would have funded roads, buildings and increased fire services.
Then, the town had a shortfall of $3.5 million over the subsequent five years.
Now, Vail faces a much bigger gap ” a shortfall of $25.8 million over the next five years.
A proposed construction-use tax is supposed to bridge that deficit. It would tax construction materials that are used in Vail, including steel, concrete, bricks and nails. It’s supposed to raise $4 million in its first year if it passes.
In Vail’s earlier years, maintenance was often just delayed a year if there wasn’t enough money in the budget, said Mayor Rod Slifer. But now, the roads and buildings are showing their age as the town has passed 40 years in age, he said.
“It needs to be kept up,” Slifer said. “You could probably put off some of them for a little while but not for long just because of the life of the buildings.”
Over the next five years, Town Hall needs $2.4 million for a new heating and ventilation system. The parking structures need $3.9 million in work. Other facilities such as the library, the police department and the public works department need almost $4 million. Another $15.4 million is needed for rebuilding streets.
Rebuilding bridges will cost $3.5 million. One aging bridge in the Matterhorn neighborhood of West Vail is now considered “deficient,” said Greg Hall, public works director for the town.
The town now funds road and building work with money from sales tax.
After the rejection of the 2002 tax, Vail cut back expenses by 5 percent, including delaying road reconstruction, eliminating several open job positions and cutting back on some bus service, said Kathleen Halloran, manager of budgets and financial reporting for the town of Vail.
The town also held off on building a West Vail fire station and renovating the Vail Public Library, she said.
Finding money for “capital improvements” seems to be nothing new in Vail. During his first term as mayor, Slifer wondered how Vail would find enough money for projects.
“It will be difficult to find new sources of revenues to build necessary capital improvements and to provide quality service that will keep us a world class resort community,” he wrote in his Mayor’s Message in 1985.
More than 20 years later, the town, twice as old, faces the same problem.
If the construction tax doesn’t pass, the council might have to ask voters for another kind of tax, Slifer said Friday.
“You can tighten the budget and do all those things, but I don’t think our budgets are excessive, and I don’t think the proposed expenses for the fund we’re trying to raise are unreasonable,” Slifer said. “At some point, we’ll have to have some sort of taxation or some sort of funding.”
Slifer supports the construction use tax, saying it’s more feasible than a property tax increase.
“I think it’s very hard to do a property tax increase,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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