Craig City Council: Background on the safety center issue
December 4, 2010
As members of the Craig City Council, we feel it's in the best interests of the taxpayers of Craig and Moffat County to share with you the background that helped shape our decision pertaining to the Moffat County Public Safety Center.
Our primary intention has been to keep all law enforcement under one roof and spend tax dollars prudently. This column is meant to provide you with the more salient points.
In 1972, the Craig City Council needed additional revenue to provide funding for the increased demand for city services.
Rather than propose a 2-percent city sales tax, the council approached the Moffat County Commission to consider a 2-percent county-wide sales tax to help fund the increased demand for city services.
Originally, the commissioners agreed to put the issue to a vote of the citizens with all the revenue generated going to the city to help support the needed services. During a special meeting of the city council and county commissioners, the county indicated they would need some additional funds, as well. It was agreed to split the sales tax collections with the city getting 75 percent and the county receiving 25 percent. Voters approved the measure.
In 1997, the county was in need of improving or replacing its jail facility.
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It is important to note that Colorado state law requires counties to provide law enforcement for all citizens in the county.
Municipalities are not required to provide law enforcement, but may choose to do so. To this point, if there is not municipal law enforcement, the county is responsible to provide all the funding for law enforcement.
The county and the city held several discussions as to what kind of facility was needed and how to fund it. It was decided that a new facility could be built to house the jail and all the law enforcement agencies (city, county and state).
One proposal for funding was to ask the voters to re-impose the county-wide use tax.
The other proposal for funding was to ask the voters to allow the county to receive more of the county-wide sales tax (the county would increase from 25 percent to 62.5 percent, and the city would decrease from 75 percent to 37.5 percent.)
To offset part of the losses of revenue to the city, the county agreed to support the city as they asked voters to increase the city sales tax to 2.25 percent.
As part of this agreement, the city would donate the land to build the public safety center and the city would be allowed to be in the facility rent free for 10 years after which time the two entities would revisit the lease.
It was anticipated the City would lose to the county about $100,000 of sales tax revenue. This meant the city would be contributing around $100,000 a year toward the public safety center building.
In reality, that has amounted to an average of $128,000 per year, or a total for the past nine years of about $1.15 million toward the payment of the safety center.
The city believes it is already paying approximately $128,000 a year for its share of the facility.
In addition, our constituents, the sales taxpayers within the city, are already paying for a majority of the debt service that built the public safety center. So, arguably, we believe our constituents are being asked to pay for the police department space again.
With this history in mind, we could not justify the continued use of tax dollars to rent space in perpetuity for our police department and have nothing to show for the expense. In addition, during an initial conversation about the rent/lease agreement, the city and county were more than $200,000 apart in what the rent/lease payment would be each year.
As we entered into official negotiations with the county, we shared our reasoning and stated our desire to look at purchasing a portion of the public safety center for our use as well as an undivided portion of common use space.
The county was very receptive to this discussion.
After a series of meetings, the negotiators for the city and county came to agreement on several points, but stood approximately $346,000 apart on the sale price.
At this time, the city has chosen to negotiate a short-term lease. During this period, the city will explore the cost of building a facility that will meet the needs of the police department, and in our belief, be a more fiscally responsible use of tax dollars.
For additional information, we encourage you to visit our City of Craig website, and go to government, click city council, click public safety center and review a series of past articles that appeared in the newspaper that more fully present a picture of the initial community thoughts on the safety center, a tax spreadsheet compiled since 2001, and the current lease.
We hope this helps you as taxpayers understand the perspective we have with regard to this process.