Sales tax hike eyed for Fruitvale, Clifton
Mesa County commissioners are floating the idea of creating an additional sales tax in Clifton and Fruitvale in order for that area to pay more of its own way for county services.
County leaders have had preliminary discussions with some business owners about the tax and plan to hold a series of public meetings over a six- to eight-month period to solicit feedback, Commissioner Janet Rowland said.
The proposal is in the early stages and a number of rudimentary details need to be hashed out, including whether business owners will back the tax, the amount of the tax and which commercial areas of Clifton and Fruitvale would be subject to it. Under state law, the maximum sales tax that could be added to the county’s 2 percent sales tax is 1 percent.
A sales tax question could appear on the ballot next year. If approved, the sales tax would take the place of a taxing district for new development in Clifton and Fruitvale that the county commissioners established two years ago. The board on Monday unanimously agreed to eliminate the 2-mill levy that was charged to properties newly annexed in the Bookcliff Urban Services Public Improvement District, leaving the county a step away from dissolving the district altogether.
“We’ve changed our mind in how it’s implemented,” Commissioner Janet Rowland said in reference to a permanent revenue stream for Clifton and Fruitvale “but we haven’t changed our mind in that area either needs to pay its own way or we’ll reduce services out there.”
Rowland and fellow Commissioner Craig Meis have long argued that the amount of money the county spends in Clifton and Fruitvale is disproportionate to the population in those areas, leaving taxpayers elsewhere in the county to foot the bill. Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, though, has opposed the property tax district from the beginning.
The board now appears to be turning its sights to a possible sales tax to generate additional revenue for Clifton and Fruitvale. And the county is prepared to spend less money on transportation projects in those areas in the coming years.
The county will spend $2 million on transportation projects between 31 and 34 roads this year, which accounts for 12 percent of the county’s share of its sales tax. By 2014, that amount is expected to drop to $250,000, or just 1 percent, according to County Engineering Division Director Mike Meininger.
Rowland said some business owners have expressed concern that there will be a “ghetto look” in the area of their businesses without sufficient county funding.
Toby Monger, owner of Monarch HVAC, said he hadn’t heard about a possible additional 1 percent sales tax until he was contacted by a reporter Monday. He said he wants to learn more about the types of projects and services the sales tax would subsidize.
“My initial thought is I’m struggling so hard in business that an additional sales tax wouldn’t help me,” he said.
On the other hand, Monger noted, “Clifton and Fruitvale could certainly use some upgrades.”
The Daily Sentinel attempted to reach several other Clifton-area business owners for comment on the potential sales tax but was unsuccessful.