WALSENBURG- The Chamber of Commerce sponsored a Town Hall meeting at the Spanish Peaks Library on Wednesday, Oct. 5, in an effort to promote the idea of an increase in the mil levy to the residents of the city. About 25 people attended the meeting to hear why the ballot measure should be passed in this November’s election.
If the measure doesn’t pass, the city will see a reduction in revenue of around $107,000 in the General Fund for 2012. This estimate is based on a projected collection of around $414,621 from the mil levy valuation for 2012.
The General Fund pays for administration, city council, building inspection/animal control/code enforcement, streets (excluding paving, which is provided by a separate sales tax), street lights, parks and the police. If the measure fails, it would mean a radical cut in services currently provided to residents.
The police wages and benefits use about 63 percent of the General Fund. And 83 percent of the fund, which includes the percentage dedicated to police use, is slated for General Fund payroll. That means about $996,000 of the $1.2 million General Fund revenues pays the wages and benefits of the city’s employees.
The measure is asking the voters to approve the levy at 18.547 mils. That was the high mark in 1995, and the city should have requested in each following year that the high mark be retained and accompanied by a temporary credit in each annual budget resolution. But it didn’t, mostly because responsible persons did not know the intricacies of the TABOR amendment. Now the city wants to return to the high mark and reinstate annual temporary credits, as appropriate.
If the city council had retained the 18.547 mil levy and employed annual temporary credits, the current ballot measure would not have been necessary. Mayor Bruce Quintana reassured citizens, “Just because we are asking for that amount doesn’t mean we will take that amount.”
What the city wants to do is get the requested increase passed, raising the mil levy to 18.547. Due to the guidelines of the TABOR amendment, an increase in the mil levy must be decided by city voters.
The city plans to use only 14.547 mils and credit the citizens of the city the 4 mils difference. This will raise about $380,000 in mil levy money for the General Fund for 2012.
Right now the mil levy for the city is at 15.84 mils for 2011, but the last legal level under TABOR was set at 11.756. Because of limits imposed by the Colorado State Constitution, the ballot question must be based on the last legal mil levy (11.756) rather than the last mil levy actually imposed (15.84). The result is that the property owner is being asked to approve an increase from the 11.756. If the measure passes at the polls, the property owner will actually experience a 2012 property tax based on 14.547 mils which is less than the 15.84 mils assessed in 2011.
With the increase in the levy and the credit of 4 mils, property owners will see a slight reduction in their tax bill for 2012 and the city will collect only $15,000 less in 2012 than it acquired in 2011.
If the measure fails and the city loses about $100,000, it will have around $307,000 coming in from the mil levy in the 2012 general fund. That reduction in funds could set off a cascade of cuts that would end up affecting services to the entire city, including another potential round of layoffs which the city is anxious to avoid.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward