Commissioners to discuss referendum

Moffat County officials are not sure voters know enough about the 5.5 percent referendum to vote on it in November. So, they're trying to educate them.

The Moffat County commissioners will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the proposed tax-revenue exemption, which would put an additional $679,336 into county coffers during two years.

The discussion starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Commissioners' Chambers at the Moffat County Courthouse. A question and answer session will follow.

"Maybe (voters) are not aware of it or maybe they haven't heard enough about it," Commissioner Saed Tayyara said.

The 5.5 percent question -- Referendum 1A on the November ballot -- would allow the county to keep money that otherwise would be given back to taxpayers under a law from 1913.

The 1913 law limits county revenues to 5.5 percent growth from one year to the next and states that if revenues exceed 5.5 percent, the county must refund the excess to taxpayers. If county revenues grow by 10 percent, for example, the county has to refund 4.5 percent.

County officials say the revenue restriction makes it hard for the county's finances to rebound after rough years, such as 2003, when revenues fell by 7.6 percent.

According to the county's figures, the referendum -- which would sunset in five years -- would cost a homeowner with a house worth $100,000 about $20 in tax refunds during the next two years. On a business worth $100,000, the referendum would cost $72 in the first two years. About 80 percent of the refund would go to the county's top 10 taxpayers, all of which are energy companies.

At Tuesday's meeting, Moffat County Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber will present two budgets for 2006, one showing county expenses with the added revenue from the referendum and one without.

Commissioner Tayyara said showing voters specific projects that will be affected by the referendum will give them a better understanding of the referendum.

"Certain services are not going to be able to be provided (if the referendum fails)," Tayyara said.

Gerber said some of the services that will be reduced without the referendum are dust control on county roads and mosquito spraying.

Like Tayyara, Gerber is concerned voters might not understand the 5.5 percent question.

"People feel like it is a tax increase, and that is not really what it is," Gerber said.

Commissioners plan to hold an evening meeting about every three months so citizens who work during the day can attend.

There was an evening meeting in June, but the commissioners didn't have any specific business during it, just a question and answer period.

In addition to discussion about the referendum, the meeting's agenda includes facility security issues and use as well as a request for proposals for a fire and emergency response assessment.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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