County considers requesting tax increase

City, county seeking funds for separate projects; meet to schedule elections

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Moffat County Commissioners will take two weeks to decide if and when they will ask voters for a use tax. They're putting a rush on the decision so the city and county aren't racing against each other for space on the November ballot.

The two groups met Tuesday night to consider their separate needs for an additional revenue source. Both are members of a steering committee that is working to build a recreation center in Craig. Originally it was thought a countywide use tax would be needed in order to fund the construction, something commissioners opposed at a joint meeting last month, saying the county had needs other than a recreation center.

"When the county broached us last month for a portion of that use tax, it was kind of a surprise," City Manager Jim Ferree said.

Ferree has been working with a community-based steering committee on a recreation center for more than a year.

Moffat County officials have two seats on the steering committee and last month was the first time they had proposed taking a portion of the funding the committee had hoped to use to build a recreation center.

In May, Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steel proposed that the county keep $500,000 of use tax revenues for miscellaneous capital improvement projects and give the city $250,000 a year for the construction of a recreation center.

But, $250,000 a year wouldn't pay for the most basic of recreation centers, City Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike said.

"The steering committee felt pretty strongly at its last meeting that they wanted to go for an $11 million facility and lay it all on the table for voters," he said.

Financial consultants for the recreation center estimate nearly $1 million a year needs to be collected to pay for an $8 million facility. The committee plans to seek grants and foundation dollars for the rest.

"It's not that they want the Cadillac, they just worry that for every amenity they eliminate, they're eliminating a portion of voter support."

At the last recreation center steering committee meeting, financial consultants showed members a way the city could fund the center without the use of a countywide use tax. A combination sales tax increase and automobile use tax could pay for the facility, eliminating the need for a combined city and county question, which because of TABOR restraints, would take two separate ballot questions and two elections to do.

That information was presented to county officials Tuesday night, leaving the question of who would get on the ballot first.

TABOR doesn't allow for more than one tax increase question on any ballot. Steering committee members were concerned that they would do the work to prepare a question for the November ballot and the county, which can pass a resolution to put a question on the ballot in one day, would supersede the city's question, which would take a minimum of four weeks to be approved by the City Council, Pike said.

City officials agreed to get on the commissioners' June 16 or June 17 agenda to present additional information and to get a determination from the county about its plans.

The commissioners have put a hold on any capital projects this year because of budget constraints. Steele said the county needs additional funding for projects like paving Moffat County Road 4, constructing a convention center at the fairgrounds and to remodel the courthouse.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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