Ballot Issue 1A
Sales tax ballot issue 1A – your dollars at work one year later
By Town Administrator Frank Lancaster
It's been just about a year since the citizens of Estes Park approved a one percent additional sales tax for specific improvements in the Town. We wanted to report back to you how your additional one percent has been put to work and the plans in the hopper as we move forward. As a little background, voters approved a one percent additional sales tax in a municipal election last April. The tax is in effect for ten years and must be used for the following purposes:
So that everyone can easily track the new revenue, we set up separate funds for each of these purposes in the Town budget -- to separate it from all other operating funds of the Town. Since its inception, the new sales tax has raised just over $1.5 million. This is for the period from July of 2014, when it went into effect, through February of 2015, since sales tax is received about 45 days after the end of the month. By the end of 2015, it will have raised about $3.5 million.
Streets (60 %)
Fixing roads is expensive and takes planning, equipment and labor. Although ten years may seem like a long time, it's not very long to address all of our road needs. In 2015 we expect to spend approximately $2.9 million on Town streets, including about $2 million in new sales tax revenue as well as funds from the previously established Streets Improvement Program. To most effectively use the sales tax revenue, it's important to have priorities and a schedule based on sound engineering principles and a knowledge of the condition of the pavement network. One of the first tasks necessary is to develop an up-to-date pavement management assessment of our roads and then to develop a schedule of repairs over the ten years to address these needs. In the next few weeks we will bring a pavement manager on board to accomplish and manage this time-intensive task, among other responsibilities.
There's an old cowboy saying that "When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing is to stop digging." We can't fix all the roads at once, but an ounce of prevention is worth a truck load of asphalt. The Town has purchased a spray patcher machine that will allow us to very efficiently fill and repair potholes with just one operator. This will greatly extend the life our roads, not to mention the shocks on our cars. Look for this machine (it looks like a big mechanical elephant) working on streets throughout Town limits this summer.
And last but not least, we will be rebuilding Dry Gulch Road in late summer. This project will include resurfacing the road and the addition of bicycle and pedestrian lanes. The project is currently in design and public outreach will begin soon.
Community Center (25%)
These funds are being set aside and saved for the future Community Center and integrated Senior Services provided by the Town. The Estes Valley Recreation and Park District is taking the lead on the design and fund raising for the Community Center and the Town will continue to set aside funds in a separate account until such time as they are needed for the project. At the end of 2015, we expect to have saved approximately $850,000 for the project.
Public multi-use trails (12.5%)
It will take a few years to build up the funds for multi-use trails, but we are working on this as well. At the end of this year, we expect to have saved approximately $432,000 for this purpose. We will be leveraging the local sales tax with the Town's share of the Larimer County Open Space Tax, and also with GoCo funds, when available, to stretch local dollars further. We will start on the design for extending the Fall River Trail further west toward the National Park with sales tax funds and a federal grant that the Town received for this trail last year. In association with the Dry Gulch project, we're working on plans for an underpass under U.S. 34 that will connect the bike/pedestrian lanes on Dry Gulch with the Lake Estes Trail so bikes and pedestrians won't be required to cross U.S. 34 -- one of the busiest and highest-speed roads in the valley.
Emergency Response (2.5%)
This was the first area that we put your tax to work. It was painfully obvious during the fires and the flood that we need another way to communicate emergency information. Our emergency notification system works great (www.LETA911.org), but it isn't very effective at reaching guests and travelers in our community, and it cannot be used for information that isn’t related to immediate threats to life and property. In December, the Town installed and licensed our own information and emergency AM radio station -- Estes 1470. Listen to the new station next time you get in the car, or check it out online through a link at www.estes.org. With this new radio station we can quickly broadcast emergency information -- but it's not limited to that. We also will be able to make other public information announcements like facility information, events and road closures, weather emergencies and possibly even traffic updates.
We’re also working on purchasing equipment for the Town’s Emergency Operations Center – to keep these critical operations working smoothly when it matters most. By the end of 2015, the new sales tax will have raised about $86,000 for these types of projects.
We take the fiduciary responsibility of using your tax funds very seriously and we want to be completely transparent with how your investment in our community is being spent. We've set up a special page on our website at www.estes.org/ballotissue1a just for the 1 percent sales tax and related projects. We will be updating this page quarterly to show you how much tax is coming in and how we have been using it in each of the four specific areas. Check out this page for more specific information on the sales tax.