Our view: Council needs to get specific | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Council needs to get specific

Editor’s note: This story has been updated as the Steamboat Springs City Council has placed the funding offset discussion on it’s Oct. 9 and 16 meeting agendas. 

The Steamboat Springs City Council is currently discussing a fire district inclusion election, which would be decided in a May 2018 special election.

If approved by voters, the ballot measure would incorporate city residents into the current Steamboat Springs Area Fire Protection District, which would allow the district to collect up to 9 mills of property tax on properties within city limits to fund firefighting and emergency medical services.

The inclusion wouldn't change the services city residents receive, but it would change the way the local fire district is funded, and it would free up $1.8 million in the budget that the city now spends annually to support Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue.

As the council moves toward placing the inclusion issue on the ballot, we urge council members to make sure voters understand how the $1.8 million the city will no longer be allocating to Fire Rescue will be earmarked. Without detailed information on that, we fear the ballot measure will fail.

The measure stands a greater chance of approval if voters know exactly what the city intends to do with the money it is saving when it no longer has to support firefighting services. Just telling voters, "trust us, this is part of our fiscal sustainability plan," won't fly in our opinion and could derail what we think is a solid long-term plan for the fire district.

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Council needs to determine right now how almost $2 million in sales tax revenue will be reallocated or they could decide to provide city residents with some sort of tax rebate in exchange for the new property tax they will be paying to support the fire district.

For the reasons stated above, we think the council was wise in its decision not to pursue a consumption tax on retail marijuana last month. The ballot language was vague when spelling out how the tax revenue would have been used, and because of that, we believe the issue would have failed at the polls and been a waste of money and effort to pursue if the council had proceeded.

City Council is scheduled to discuss how they will dedicate the financial offset created by the fire district inclusion at its Oct. 9 and 16 meetings. If you have an opinion on that issue, now is the time to express it to your elected officials. Public comment will also be taken at the council meeting.

There is also an opportunity to learn more about the issue at Friday's Coffee with a Council, which will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14 in the Crawford Room of Centennial Hall, 124 10th St. These events are hosted by council member Scott Ford and other available council members and are open to the community.

At issue: City Council is moving toward placing a fire district inclusion issue on the ballot next year.

Our view: Council needs to outline how they plan to spend the sales tax revenue that will no longer be allocated to fire services if the issue passes.

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