FORT COLLINS — While Coloradans brace for a rapid rise in property taxes thanks to a dramatic increase in property tax valuations, it appears city leaders in Fort Collins aren’t concerned, as they plan to ask voters in November to not only raise sales and use taxes but also the mill levy.
The combined tax hikes, if passed, are expected to generate $40 million or more annually for the city to be used on such things as programs and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, expand city transit systems, and subsidized housing.
Ballot issue No. 1, which was referred to voters by the City Council, would become effective January 1 and raise sales and use taxes on all things except food for home consumption and manufacturing equipment (sales tax only exemption), by one-half of one percent for a period of 26 years. It is expected to raise about $24 million or more a year and is allocated for three different expenditures.
- Half of the revenue is for “the replacement, upgrade, maintenance, and accessibility of parks facilities and the replacement and construction of indoor and outdoor recreation and pool facilities.
- One-quarter of the revenue is for programs and projects to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollution in an attempt to reach the city’s ambitious goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and community-wide carbon neutrality by 2050.
- One-quarter of the revenue is for infrastructure improvements, purchasing equipment, and upgrading and expanding the city transit system.
Ballot issue No. 2, which was also referred to voters by the City Council, would become effective on property taxes levied in 2024 for 2025 payment and beyond with no sunset. It would raise the mill levies collected by Fort Collins by three mills from 9.797 to 12.797, or about $82 more on a $400,000 home.
The money would be used to fund the “development, construction, acquisition, operation, and maintenance of affordable housing,” as well as providing “grants and incentives for the development, construction, acquisition, operation, and maintenance of affordable housing by private and public entities.” It would also fund programs and services provided by the city, other public entities and non-profit organizations to “subsidize affordable housing. “
Alexander Adams, a candidate for District 6 City Council said he does not support either for two very specific reasons, including the vagueness about where the money will go, and the fact that both taxes hurt the very people they proclaim to want to help, he said.
“There is a $46 million funding gap right now,” Adams said about the city’s budget, which must be balanced under the city’s charter. “The sales tax is not clear where it will go and sales taxes are regressive. They hurt the poor.”
Adams was referring to a clause in the ballot language that reads in part: “…and while the city may exercise its discretion in deciding the timing of spending for each category…” It goes on to say the funding from the measure will be reconciled only three times over the 26 years it remains in place.
Adams believes the taxes are being raised to help cure the current funding gap among the same three specified areas.
“But it would only cover about one-half of the gap for climate and one-third for transit,” he said. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”
Complete Colorado reached out to Adams’ opponent, current City Council Mayor Pro Tem Emily Francis, who voted to put the measures on the ballot, and she did not return our calls.
“It’s only fiscally responsible to ask, what is a better approach?” Adams said.
Fort Collins resident Sarah Hunt agreed, adding that the residents of Fort Collins are already being very generous.
“The Keep Fort Collins Great tax, which was supposed to be temporary during the Great Recession years, was recently voted by citizens to continue in perpetuity,” Hunt said. “We were told this tax was necessary for public safety expenditures like fire and police protection. Now we’re being told more taxes are needed to maintain our parks.
“If our taxes are not already being appropriated to these essential services, maybe city leaders ought to take a hard look at their budgeting strategies, instead of coming to the citizens hat-in-hand yet again,” continued Hunt.
Adams said he also struggles with the idea that they want to raise property taxes to fund affordable housing.
“You are trying to create affordable housing, but yet you’re passing a mill levy increase that will make housing costs higher,” Adams said. “It makes no sense.”
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