Van Fletcher: A strange matter
October 17, 2007
There’s something strange about the recreation center issue. First, the City Council voted unanimously to put the issue on the ballot and has funded studies and consultants ($62,018). Second, the City Council is offering free land for the center. Third, the possibility of putting a nonprofit (Old Town Hot Springs) out of business is being dismissed. What is not being discussed is that the recreation center will be financed by a new city property tax.
The city is funded predominantly by the city sales tax. Back in the early 1990s, the city wanted more sales tax. The citizens were told if they supported an increase in sales tax, the city would never impose a city property tax. Taxpayers supported an increase in sales tax. It seems politicians and others quickly forget past promises.
The new property tax will finance the recreation center ($34 million) and the future maintenance ($455,500) and would be increased by additional amounts in later years. Early estimates suggest the actual cost for the center will be more than $67 million by the time the bonds are paid off.
On May 21, 2006, in a Steamboat Pilot & Today article, a “three core” plan was revealed that stated the cost of the recreation center would be $48.8 million with annual operating costs totaling $1.4 million. The consultants, Ballard and Barnard, said, “Operating the center will come at a high cost : and would make sense for the city to do so using tax dollars.”
The “Election Guide 2007” distributed with the Steamboat Today last Friday says the maintenance cost would be funded by a 0.7 mill increase and a mill increase between 4 and 5 mills for the center. And this will represent 40 percent of the city’s budget. In addition, taxpayers would pay a users fee, or membership fee, annually. You’ll be paying twice for artificial turf fields, covered pool, indoor track and playgrounds that are not now available.
Keep in mind, if you vote for the recreation center, you will be voting to impose a first-ever new city property tax. If Referendums 2B and 2C pass, it will open the door for the city to fund future expenditures using the property tax.
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