Balance open space, transportation, general fund
The numbers were compelling, and the polling was strong for a scenario that relied on business to do the heavy lifting. We advocated against this approach, arguing instead for the city to better prioritize transportation funding within the existing budget.
Since we last visited this topic (“Don't let transportation 'fee' take us for a ride” – Boulder County Business Report, April 25) a dramatic yet sensible plan for addressing the transportation funding gap has emerged.
In August, the city council voted unanimously to offer voters a long-term, measured approach for which we have advocated so strongly. Ballot questions 2B, 2C and 2D, a package consisting of one new interim tax (2B) and two renewing sales taxes (2C and 2D), represents a careful rebalancing of resources that fully funds the open-space vision plan while investing resources in transportation infrastructure and other city services that contribute to our community’s quality of life.
Now for the “wonky bits” (stick with us; this is complicated). The two renewing sales taxes, totaling 0.48 percent, were dedicated to open space programs when first passed. As the council reviewed the budget and prepared to put these taxes up for renewal, it became clear that the Open Space Department could fulfill its highest, vision level plan with significantly less than the full 0.48 percent.
The new plan directs 0.22 percent to open space, and 0.11 percent to basic services such as police, fire and libraries paid by the general fund (2C). Transportation needs (2D), including road maintenance and alternative modes, would receive 0.15 percent in sales tax revenue. A short-term bridge tax of 0.15 percent (2B) appears on the ballot to tide the transportation department over until 2D kicks in, if approved.
Open space will be well-served by this plan. Through 2034, an estimated $155 million would fund land purchases identified in the Acquisition Plan, with $5.6 million yearly for maintenance after 2034. As the land purchases are completed, the remaining revenue would supplement the general fund’s 0.11 percent share of 2C to address much-needed basic city services.
As we recover and rebuild from the flood, supporting 2B also makes good sense. This conservative, sun-setting tax would help protect the infrastructure that is so vital to our local businesses. What’s more, if 2B fails, look for a proposed transportation fee or property tax to rear its head in the next election cycle. Not only is this the right approach now, it will offset the need to revisit other, less attractive infrastructure financing measures.
A “yes” vote on 2B, 2C and 2D supports a balanced approach to addressing community needs. This package of initiatives maintains our investment in some of Boulder's most important services and programs without placing an onerous burden on businesses.
Please join us in voting for ballot measures 2B, 2C and 2D.
Angelique Espinoza and Elisabeth Patterson are members of the public-affairs team at the Boulder Chamber.
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