Bayfield town trustees expressed a unanimous sentiment Tuesday night to try again in November for voter approval of a sales tax increase to pay for street maintenance and related projects.
The ballot question to raise the town sales tax from 2% up to 3% lost by nine votes in the April 1 town election. The tally was 66 votes for the increase and 75 against.
Town Manager Chris La May reported that the road maintenance money left from $6.8 million that the town received in 2011 to take over control and maintenance of Bayfield Parkway from the Colorado Department of Transportation will be gone in 2021.
"Unfortunately, the need for street maintenance does not diminish, and the town needs to determine how to address the future funding shortfall in street maintenance," La May said in his written staff report. "The town intends to begin transferring $200,000 from the Capital Improvement Fund in 2021, which in itself will have an impact on other town improvements and the equipment replacement fund." The 2021 date is critical because the town spent $1.8 million of the CDOT money in 2011 to resurface Bayfield Parkway, and that maintenance has a 10-year life span, La May reported. So the town will need another $1.8 million then.
"If the town can come up with $500,000, we can solve the 2021 issue," he said. "However, 2021 is only the beginning; the forecast includes future funding shortfalls after 2021 anywhere from $590,000 to $2 million. Again, that is with the $200,000 Capital Improvement Fund transfer."
La May listed options to reduce other spending, defer road maintenance, or seek additional funds.
As for reducing other spending, La May said labor is the town's biggest expense. "Assume an average cost for an employee is $50,000 with salary and benefits. That equates to 10 employees, which is almost one-half the total number of employees in the town organization." That would affect levels and types of service.
La May continued, "The board could look at critical services versus quality-of-life services. To completely do away with the Parks and Recreation Department, which includes all youth and adult programs, senior services, special events, and park maintenance, the town could reduce spending by approximately $350,000 annually."
Deferred road maintenance saves money short term but eventually costs a lot more, he said.
He listed several options for additional funds, including franchise and overweight vehicle fees. But the additional 1 percent sales tax would have the most impact, generating around $260,000 per year.
Trustees wanted to try again on the sales tax increase and also create a contingency plan if voters reject it again.
Trustee Ed Morlan noted that when the school district seeks bond issue approval, a citizen volunteer group helps promote it. The town didn't do that.
Trustee Michelle Nelson commented, "Everyone got their higher utility and property tax bills right before the (April 1) election." The increase was substantial and might have affected people's votes she said, noting the small margin of defeat.
The need for street maintenance doesn't go away, Mayor Rick Smith said. "We have to take care of the roads."