Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Dear Editor:

The Chaffee County sales tax initiative advanced by Envision is problematic. If Resolution 2018-46 tax initiative passes, all monies collected should go to “Strengthening Forest Health.” A catastrophic wildfire could decimate local forests and is clearly the greatest concern of the three elements that the resolution addresses.

Even with the $1 million collected annually from this new sales tax, these monies would need to be leveraged with federal and state dollars to mitigate the impact of hundreds of thousands of beetle-kill trees in Chaffee County.

An item of note, in all three elements making up the Res-46 initiative, no mention is made about whether the monies collected are to be used on public lands, private lands or both public and private. This is vague and confusing.

Our tax dollars are not needed for ranching conservation easements, conservation lease agreements or protecting local ranches as this is already the mandate of the Central Colorado Conservancy, which is already a well-funded nonprofit. It’s my understanding monies collected from Res-46 could be utilized by local ranchers for court costs and legal fees for lawsuits over public lands grazing issues and for estate planning.

That’s not right! Local ranches already receive significant financial breaks on property taxes. Ranchers pay pennies on the dollar to lease public lands for grazing and receive federal tax subsidies for raising beef. Let nonprofits like CCC and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association drive this process.

If the Res-46 tax passes, Salida sales tax will be over 9 percent. Res-46 benefits rural residents and ranchers with no direct benefit for Salida citizens. Many people I have spoken to in Salida and the county believe the sales tax initiative should benefit affordable housing. Also, the Res-46 tax does not sunset, which makes it far less likely any future affordable housing initiative will pass.

The Chaffee County commissioners have implied that the Private Activity Bonds for affordable housing that Chaffee County has recently qualified for is the same as raising a million dollars for affordable housing. This is not correct. The PABs have to be repaid with interest on a set time schedule.

Money raised by taxation via Res-46 is money free and clear with no interest. And Chaffee County commissioners have discretion on how to spend up to 45 percent of the money raised by Res-46. Res-46 should be for one issue, strengthening forest health, which would create one mandate and not dozens of individual projects creating another layer of local bureaucracy.

Ken Hembree