Fort Morgan voters approved an increase to the city’s sales tax rate in Tuesday’s election that will be used exclusively to improve and maintain the city’s streets and alleys.
Ballot Issue 2C was passed by city voters by a margin of approximately 61 percent to 39 percent, according to unofficial election results.
City retail stores and other merchants and businesses that collect sales tax will need to begin charging the additional 1 percent tax starting Jan. 1, 2018. The new total sales tax rate for sales within the city limits is 6.9 percent, of which 4 percent is city tax and the other 2.9 is the state sales tax.
Businesses that collect sales tax will be formally notified of the change by mail before the end of the year, and should plan to make the necessary changes in time for the Jan. 1 effective date.
The increase from 3 percent to 4 percent in the city’s share of the sales tax is the first increase in that tax rate in 35 years, since 1982.
The city conducted a scientific assessment of its street conditions in 2016, which showed that Fort Morgan’s streets were below the national average and it would cost an estimated $26 million just to clear the backlog of deferred maintenance.
City officials and staff examined a number of alternatives for financing street improvements including a property tax increase and budget cuts in other city programs and services. Ultimately, after much debate, public input and consideration, a sales tax increase was seen as the most equitable solution and the only one that could generate the needed level of revenue.
A citizen advocacy committee helped promote the passage of the Strictly for Streets sales tax measure, which was crucial in educating voters about the reasons for the proposal and the alternatives.
Through public meetings and presentations, city officials received input that led to the refinement of the ballot language to make clear that the tax would only go toward street improvements. Public feedback also prompted the addition of alley improvements as a use for the tax funding.
The Fort Morgan City Council has pledged to use money from reserve funds to begin work on street improvements as soon as possible after the first of the year, rather than waiting for collections of the new sales tax to accumulate. City officials also plan to provide regular updates to the public about how the money is being used and plans for future improvements.
Tuesday’s election also included voting for mayor and city council members in Fort Morgan. Mayor Ron Shaver and Councilmembers Kevin Lindell and Allison Howe were re-elected to additional terms, while challenger Doug Schossow prevailed in a three-way race over incumbent Councilmember Christine Castoe and Jade Spotz.
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