Council wants another TABOR override vote

Grand Junction voters agreed in 2007 that the city could use tax revenue that exceeded TABOR limits to more quickly pay off the loan on the Riverside Parkway.

Debt on the 6.8-mile beltway around the city’s southern edge could be paid off as early as 2015. Without voter approval of using the excess revenue, debt on the $110 million project could not have been paid off until 2024.

What happens after the debt is paid off is a scenario that has worried city leaders.

The city is sending millions of dollars of sales and use tax revenue that has been collected over limits set by TABOR — the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights —  to pay off the parkway debt. But when the parkway debt is paid off, those excess tax dollars must be refunded to taxpayers. By 2018, those dollars could reach an estimated $8.7 million, city officials said.

In an attempt to continue using the money for future capital projects and avoid a refund situation, Grand Junction City Council members hope to present another TABOR override question during the April 2013 municipal election. City Council members agreed during a recent retreat that the ballot question would identify a specific project or projects that the money would fund.

“We have to be very careful about the ballot language,” Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein said during the early-June retreat. “It has to say with no tax increases while utilizing existing revenues.”

There are no shortages of capital project ideas. Council members placed park creation near the top of their to-do lists. They are entertaining a long-standing desire among residents to create a recreation center. Road and bridge improvements have taken a back seat as the sputtering economy has curbed regular maintenance.

Council members also want to realign the downtown sections of Ute and Pitkin avenues to better reflect the ambiance of downtown. Members also would love to see the designs on an amphitheater come to fruition at Las Colonias Park, a 100-acre parcel of city-owned land south of downtown near the Colorado River.

If the debt were paid off in 2015, the city could pay it off in a lump sum, $31.9 million payment. A fund compiling current TABOR excess taxes, to be paid toward Riverside Parkway debt, is estimated to be more than $19 million by the end of the year.

If the city enters into a refund situation, the bulk of the dollars would go back to commercial businesses in Grand Junction, City Manager Laurie Kadrich said. But figuring out the best way to reimburse everyone could create a nightmarish scenario. City officials half-jokingly said it may be easiest to drop cash from an airplane over Mesa Mall during one of the year’s busiest shopping days.


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