Moffat County commissioners discuss taxing district

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In other action

At its meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, a letter to the federal Bureau of Land Management office in Washington, D.C., and Interior Secretery Ken Salazar asking them to not make substantial changes to the BLM Resource Management Plan for the Little Snake Field Office.

The letter states the Management Plan was created through broad public participation, and it shouldn't be disregarded.

The letter mentions sage-grouse protections and potential energy drilling in Vermillion Basin as two areas particularly important to local residents and groups because of their economic implications.

The management plan will outline how all federal lands are managed in the Little Snake Office, which includes all of Moffat County.

• Approved, 3-0, a bid from ThyssenKrupp, an international company with a regional office in Eagle, to maintain elevators at the Moffat County Courthouse and extension office for $380 a month.

As the Moffat County Commission discussed Tuesday, it's a complex issue when governments consider raising taxes to pay for needed services.

"There's always advocates for more taxes," Commissioner Tom Gray said, referring to the prospect of raising taxes on residents who are trying to cope with the national recession.

"There always advocates for better roads, too," Craig City Manager Jim Ferree responded, referring to a widespread public desire for safer, more convenient transportation.

Ferree was invited to the Commission's meeting to participate in the discussion.

A collective of private and public officials from Routt County have asked Moffat County and Craig officials to come to the table on possibly creating a regional taxing district for transportation.

Known as a regional transportation authority, the district would collect taxes specifically for transportation issues, such as maintaining roads and helping pay for airline subsidies at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said her organization has facilitated a large working group in Steamboat on how to address transportation needs for the past two years.

Nothing about how a regional transportation authority would collect or spend its revenue has been decided. Funding possibilities include a 1 percent sales tax, additional vehicle registration fees and a visitor benefit tax on lodging and other tourist services.

Gray and fellow commissioner Tom Mathers did not support the idea.

"I don't think we need to go out and tax people for all these projects," Mathers said. "When is enough enough?"

Gray said governments should resist the urge to raise taxes to generate revenue.

"Why not lower taxes to stimulate the economy so people can buy more things, stimulate more businesses and boost revenue that way through your own economy?" he said.

Commissioner Audrey Danner said she was not on board with installing a regional transportation authority, but she said it would be prudent to at least discuss the possibility.

"I would point out that roads are at the top of our list of list of county priorities," Danner said.

Ferree also added that he, too, is unsure about a regional transportation authority, but the county is considering turning paved roads to gravel because it can't afford to maintain the asphalt.

Routt County Commission chairman Doug Monger was more adamant in his opposition than Moffat County officials.

"I'm going to be philosophically against it from the start to the end," he said.

Monger also was dubious that many residents would support such a plan.

"Is it going to make it any more palatable to the citizens of Routt County and the citizens of Moffat County that it's going to transportation?" he asked. "I don't think so. A tax increase is a tax increase."

However, Monger's opposition was based as much in logistics as a hostility to new taxes.

The Commission chairman worried a regional taxing body would muddy the waters between counties, each with their own interests and rightful claim to funding.

If there are projects that need to be funded, then those counties and cities with interests in those projects should fund them, Monger said.

Officials from Steamboat, Hayden, Craig and Routt and Moffat counties plan to meet at 2 p.m. Oct 14 at Hayden Town Hall to discuss the prospect of raising taxes for transportation needs.

A future meeting also has been organized for south Routt County towns.

Dinosaur and other Moffat County towns other than Craig have not been formally invited to participate in discussions.

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