Editor's note: This is a reprint of an article published in September.
By Carole McWilliams
Times Senior Staff Writer
Ballots for the Nov. 4 election were mailed to La Plata County voters earlier this month. Voters who live in Bayfield town limits received a ballot with an additional question listed as 2A.
They are being asked to raise the town sales tax rate from 2 percent up to 3 percent. The additional revenue will be dedicated to street maintenance and transportation-related projects.
If approved, the additional tax will start on Jan. 1. It will bring the total sales tax (town, county, and state) in town to 7.9 percent, the same as in Durango. The ballot wording allows for a maximum $285,000 of new revenue in the first year.
The same ballot request was rejected by a vote of 66 yes to 75 no in the April town election. Voter turnout tends to be very low in those elections. Town trustees opted to try again.
In early September Town Manager Chris La May briefed the town board on projected costs versus revenue for street-related maintenance and other transportation-related projects.
Costs tend to spike every 10 years or so, because major maintenance work like paving has about a 10-year life span, he said.
The town got $6.8 million in 2011 from Colorado Department of Transportation for the town to take over and maintain Highway 160B, now called Bayfield Parkway.
That year the town spent $1.2 million of that money to mill the old asphalt and re-pave the parkway, plus Mill Street, East Street, and Elm Circle. That maintenance spike comes around again in 2021. It will use up the last of the $6.8 million with a $714,700 deficit, according to La May's presentation.
The town maintains 17.39 miles of roads, he said. In 2013, the town's contract engineer identified a $2.3 million backlog of street maintenance and reconstruction projects. The town spent $200,000 toward that in 2013 and is spending around $1.3 million this year. That leaves an $800,000 cost in 2015 to finish off the backlog.
For the next few years, maintenance costs will drop to around $40,000 to $50,000 before the cost spike in 2021, La May said.
Separately, the big hit on the CDOT money is the estimated $3 million cost to replace the two green bridges on Bayfield Parkway. The main work on that is likely to be next year. La May said the town got another $1.386 million in CDOT off-system bridge money for this project.
By the end of 2015, about $1.3 million should be left from the CDOT money.
La May's focus was what happens starting in 2021. He proposes to start transferring $200,000 a year from the capital improvements budget to street maintenance in 2021, but without new money, there will be an ongoing street maintenance deficit of $200,000 to $2 million, he said.
"We looked at a property tax to generate around $200,000 a year," he said. That would mean doubling the town's current 5.95 mill levy. It would mean only town residents would be paying the extra cost, instead of all the other people who use town streets, he said.
The sales tax increase is more equitable and will bring in around $260,000 a year, he added.