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|October 30-November 5, 2008
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Boulder Count Ballot Issue 1A
Boulder County Clean Energy Local Improvement District
County Ballot Issue 1A asks voters whether the county can issue bonds of no more than $400 million in order to loan money to county homeowners for improvements in energy efficiency or for the installation of renewable-energy technology in their homes. Homeowners who opt to participate in the program — limited to a special improvement district that includes unincorporated Boulder County and cities within the county that opt in — would repay their share of the debt through their property taxes. County residents and homeowners who choose not to participate would face no tax increase.
Those in favor of Ballot Issue 1A say that programs like this one are needed if Boulder County is going to decrease its carbon footprint and comply with the Kyoto Protocol. Because so many older homes lack even basic insulation, one of the best things the county can do to help cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and to protect residents from rising energy costs is to refit existing buildings to be both energy efficient and to get at least a portion of their energy from renewable sources, like solar energy. But doing so often involves a large upfront investment, something most families can’t afford.
By passing 1A, voters will remove that block. Homeowners will be able to borrow money and repay it through their property taxes at lower interest rates than they’d find on the open market. The loan would be tied to the property and not the homeowners, so that if a family decided to sell it’s home, they wouldn’t have to repay the loan before being able to close the sale. The remainder of the debt would pass to the new owner as part of the property tax assessment on the home.
Although the increase in property taxes will increase the total monthly payment on the mortgages of those who participate in the program, many will save money immediately due to lower energy bills. Because property taxes are collected even in cases of foreclosure, the county will recoup its money.
In addition to lowering energy costs for individual homeowners and decreasing the county’s carbon footprint, it will have the convenient impact of stimulating the growth of green-energy companies in the county and keeping money that would otherwise be sent out of state to pay utility bills right here in Boulder.
Those who oppose this measure say that this is not how the county should use its credit and claim that some lending institutions might hesitate to extend credit to homeowners in Boulder County if they know that property taxes will be higher. They worry that more homeowners will be forced into default by the increase in their mortgage payments. They also say that homeowners who participate may find it more difficult to sell their homes because of the higher property taxes.
Boulder Weekly applauds the county for moving forward with this bold proposal. If passed, Boulder County will be the first county in the nation to put this idea into action on such a broad scale. Part environmental program, part economic stimulus package, 1A offers us a chance to enhance the comfort and sustainability of our homes, to support the growth of renewable energy as an industry in our community and to minimize our impact on the planet. And it does this without raising taxes on anyone apart from those who choose to participate.
Vote YES on Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A.
Boulder County Ballot Issue 1B
Worthy Cause sales tax extension
County Ballot Issue 1B asks voters to decide whether they want to extend the countywide 0.05 percent sales and use tax known as “Worthy Cause,” first approved by voters in 2000 and extended in 2003. For every $100 spent in the county, 5 cents is set aside to fund capital facilities and improvements for nonprofit organizations that provide a range of human services, such as transitional and affordable housing; childcare; early childhood education; food and clothing for the poor; and services for the elderly and disabled.
Since its extension in 2003, Worthy Cause funds have helped a variety of county nonprofits that provide important services to improve or purchase facilities, including Boulder County AIDS Project, Boulder Day Nursery, Dental Aid, Emergency Family Assistance and Safehouse. This has allowed these organizations to put more of the money they raise toward their operating budgets and toward services for their clients.
People who opposed 1B say that government shouldn’t be taking money from people and giving it to nonprofits. People can make donations if they want to support these organizations, they say. Further, they claim that because sales taxes are inherently regressive, having a greater impact on low-income individuals than on the middle class or the wealthy, Worthy Cause takes money from the very people it seeks to help.
But proponents say that the program pools people’s resources in order to aid those who most desperately need it. At a time when state and federal funds are declining, it falls to the city to support human-services agencies so that the needs of city residents can be met. Although sales taxes are regressive, the amount of the tax is small compared to the benefits that those who are truly low income stand to gain.
Boulder Weekly supported Worthy Cause in 2000 and again in 2003. We see it as one way for Boulder County residents to pull together for the greater good. Vote YES on Boulder County Ballot Issue 1B.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue No. 201
City retention of property tax funds
In 1992, voters passed the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) as a Colorado Constitutional Amendment. TABOR limits revenue growth to Consumer Pricing Index (CPI) plus new growth. By 1996, City of Boulder voters had removed the restrictions on all city revenue except property tax. In 1997, voters removed the restrictions on two mills of the property tax and dedicated it to public safety.
Under remaining restrictions, when the amount collected will exceed the amount that can be collected, it is returned by issuing a credit on the property tax bill.
If approved, Ballot Issue No. 201 would phase out the credit over a six-year period and would remove the remaining restrictions. For homes, the credit would mean an estimated tax increase of $22 for each $100,000 in market value over the course of six years. For business properties, the estimated impact at the end of six years is an increase of $806 per $1,000,000 of market value. Based on current values, the total amount that would be generated at the end of six years would be approximately $6.7 million, to be used for basic city services. The money would be used for firefighting equipment, information technology, energy costs, facility maintenance and such.
It’s a drag in times when property values might be declining to find ourselves looking at what amounts to a property-tax increase.
However, there are only so many ways a city can fund the many programs its citizens require, like police, fire, libraries and so on. To make matters more complicated, the city’s costs are increasing, too. You think your gas bill is bad? Imagine how much the city spends to fill the tanks of its police force each month.
Until and unless we want the city to begin eliminating programs, we need to find ways to fund them. This is one of those ways. Boulder Weekly supports Ballot Issue No. 201 and urges you to vote YES.
City of Boulder Ballot Issue No. 202
Sales and use tax extension
Boulder’s Ballot Issue 202 is a proposal to extend a sales and use tax already in place. In November 1988, a 0.38 percent sales and use tax was passed with the primary purpose to fund debt payments for the library capital construction program. That proposal stipulated that any amounts collected in excess of the debt payments could be used for any General Fund purpose. The General Fund consists of programs and services offered by the city that do not have a specifically dedicated tax or fee, such as parks and recreation, housing and human services and libraries. That 1988 tax is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2011.
Currently, the amount of excess collections that go toward the General Fund is $8.6 million annually. If passed, Ballot Issue 202 would extend the 0.38 percent sales tax indefinitely, with no set expiration date, in order to continue to receive and make plans for future revenue for the General Fund. The tax represents 38 cents for every $100 spent on a taxable item.
Although Boulder Weekly is uncomfortable with the regressive nature of sales and use taxes, we don’t have any other brilliant ideas for ways the city can continue to fund the programs that have benefited from this tax. Times are lean for local governments, with federal and state dollars now scarce. Renewing this tax will benefit all city residents and help Boulder continue to provide the programs its residents have come to expect. Vote YES on Boulder Ballot Issue No. 202.
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