Low turnout for 5.5 percent information session

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Moffat County employees and the media withstanding, just four residents attended Tuesday evening's county commissioners meeting.

Commissioners hoped to use the evening meeting to get the word out to the public about a tax revenue limitation exemption that they are asking voters to approve in November, but the residents in attendance seemed to have their minds made up already.

Commissioner Darryl Steele said afterward that the low turnout might not be a bad thing.

"There are several ways you can look at it," Steele said.

He said the turnout could mean the public already understands the 5.5 percent question and know how they plan to vote on the issue.

The 5.5 percent question would allow the county to keep money that otherwise would be credited back to taxpayers under a law from 1913, which limits county revenues to 5.5 percent growth from one year to the next. If county revenues grow by 10 percent, for example, the county has to refund 4.5 percent.

According to the county's figures, the 5.5 percent question, called Referendum 1A on the November ballot, 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.

But the referendum -- which would sunset in five years -- would put about $1.2 million into the county's coffers in two years, Moffat County Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said Tuesday.

Some of the residents at the meeting said they plan to support the referendum and might start a political action committee to campaign for it.

Charley Watkins of Craig was one of those residents. Watkins said he supports the referendum because it won't cost taxpayers very much and because it will help the county build reserves in the budget.

"Every county should have enough reserve funds that you can operate the first four months of the year on that reserve," Watkins said.

Watkins said his only request of the commissioners was that they use the money from the 5.5 percent question "wisely."

Commissioners said they will use the money for a variety of capital projects, including new equipment for the Road and Bridge Department and new vehicles for the Sheriff's Department.

But one resident at Tuesday's meeting said he planned to vote against the referendum because he doesn't think the county uses taxpayer money wisely.

"I won't support it," Floyd Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said he has seen Road and Bridge crews maintain roads they were not supposed to and that the commissioners couldn't guarantee him that similar mistakes wouldn't happen again.

There was a heated exchange between Gutierrez and Com-missioner Saed Tayyara ab--out Tayyara's handling of Gutierrez's complaints in the past.

The commissioners said they couldn't guarantee that county employees wouldn't make mistakes such as maintaining the wrong roads.

"There are no guarantees in this life," Commissioner Steele said.

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

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