Our View: Sales tax concerns and edits for next time

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It’s no secret that elected officials, business owners and many community members are bummed the sales/use tax initiative failed to gain enough votes Tuesday.

Editorial board

Noelle Leavitt Riley — newspaper representative

Andy Bockelman — newspaper representative

Terry Carwile — community representative (absent)

Dan Davidson — community representative

Since voters nodded “no” to the measure, we’ve heard city and elected officials say they will present an amended sales tax measure to our community for November’s election.

We have some recommendations and serious concerns with this being put on the ballot again without understanding and critically thinking about the following:

• A bill is circulating the Colorado General Assembly that, if approved by legislators and signed by the governor, will ask voters this November to increase the state’s sales tax by .62 percent. The bill is poised to bring an additional $375 million of funding annually to the state for transportation projects.

So we want to ask our local officials: Is this November really a good time to put a sales tax increase on the ballot, considering voters will be asked to adopt on a statewide sales tax increase?

Placing initiatives on ballots is strategic business, and we wonder if the city has considered that maybe November is not the best time to put this to Craig voters considering what’s happening at a state level.

• If the city does decide to again ask voters to approve a local sales tax measure, they must consider what it will do to our local lodging business. Right now, Craig’s lodging tax is much higher than its surrounding communities — including Steamboat, which is a resort town.

Craig’s current lodging tax is 13.05 percent — higher than Steamboat and Hayden’s 11.4 percent, Rifle’s 10.65 percent and Meeker’s 8.4 percent. If the city wants a sales tax to pass, we recommend a provision in the measure that excludes lodging. If not, our local lodging tax will be too high to justify, therefore we recommend a “no” vote on increased sales tax.

• We believe it was a bad idea to combine the sales and use tax into one initiative. Also, it seems the majority of voters didn’t quite understand what a use tax means. The city should not combine the two if they do intend to put it on November’s ballot.

• Lastly, communication is going to be key. If they city expects voters to approve a sales tax increase, there needs to be more communication about what it will fund and/or what might be axed from city services.

Without that understanding, voters are left in the dark. The sales/use tax measure failed by 67 percent, which tells us more education is needed. We know that the sales/use tax campaign committee worked hard to inform our community about the initiative, but it wasn’t enough, as it obviously tanked. Big time.

We will be closely watching what the city does next. We hope it’s the right thing.

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