Ballot measures would cost city, Grand Junction official says

Passage of the three measures that have been approved for the Nov. 2 ballot in Colorado could cost the city of Grand Junction more than 10 percent of its budget next year, according to preliminary estimates from the city’s financial services department.

The city’s 2010 budget totals $134 million.

Amendment 60, Amendment 61 and Proposition 101 would limit local and state governments’ ability to withhold property tax surpluses or go into debt and would decrease certain taxes and eliminate others on select items.

While supporters, including Jon Caldara, president of conservative think tank the Independence Institute in Golden, argue the measures will lead to smaller government, Grand Junction Financial Services Manager Jodi Romero said the measure also would lead to smaller city budgets and service offerings.

Without the revenue that would be snuffed out by the three measures, Romero said, the city will have to ask its residents what they can do without and ask the Grand Junction City Council to approve budget cuts. Cuts to street maintenance and public safety are possible with such a large gap to cover, Romero said.

Amendment 60

The measure would:

Prevent local governments or other entities from extending property taxes without voter approval, and requiring them to continue to get voter approval every four years.

Require school districts to reduce property tax mill levies by half, and require the state to fill in the difference for school funding.

Expire any measures previously approved by voters that allowed local governments to use revenue above Taxpayer Bill of Rights limits for paying off debt.

Allow entities that issue bonds before 2011 to finish paying off the bonded debt without returning to voters.

Effects on Grand Junction:

Issuing bonds to pay for large projects would become a nightmare for municipalities, Romero said. For example, the city issued bonds to pay for Riverside Parkway in 2004 and plans to pay off that debt in 2015. If Amendment 60 had been in effect, the city would have had to ask voters for permission in 2004, 2008 and 2012 to use tax revenue to pay for the parkway bonds.

“You can imagine the challenges it would pose if people voted yes twice and no once,” Romero said.

Placing a measure on a ballot usually costs five figures for government bodies in Mesa County.

Amendment 61

The measure would:

Restrict state and local governments from borrowing money and require voter approval for borrowing any money. The provision would include leases.

Effects on Grand Junction:

The restriction on leases would mean the city must pay election expenses to ask voters for approval every time it wanted to lease a vehicle for the SWAT team or lease copiers. City Manager Laurie Kadrich said amendments 60 and 61 wouldn’t save money as much as some proponents of the measure may think.

“Elections are expensive now, and to do that for a 15- to 20-year project, it shifts the focus to campaigns,” Kadrich said.

Proposition 101

The measure would:

Decrease specific ownership taxes over four years to $2 for new vehicles and $1 for older vehicles.

Cancel vehicle lease and rental taxes.

Limit sales tax on vehicle purchases to amounts above $10,000.

Eliminate telecommunications taxes, except for 911 calls.

Roll back income taxes from a rate of 4.63 to 4.5 percent in 2011 and then by 0.1 percentage point each year that net growth of income tax revenue is greater than 6 percent, until the rate is 3.5 percent of a paycheck.

Beginning in 2011, the changes could cost the city:

$3.6 million in specific ownership and vehicle registration taxes.

$2 million in sales taxes on vehicles.

$1.5 million in telecommunication taxes.

A couple hundred thousand dollars in sales tax on rental cars and car leases.


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