Boulder County Transportation Sales Tax Renewal
Members of our Community Editorial Board, a group of community residents engaged and passionate about local issues, answer the following question: Boulder County is considering asking voters to extend its 0.1% sales tax , which has been in place for about two decades and funds transportation projects throughout the county. Your opinion ?
Boulder County seeks a 15-year extension of the county transit tax and we should support it. The county has received funding from this tax for the past 20 years, but it will end at the end of June 2024. The county receives its funding through property taxes, vehicle registration fees, a tax on gasoline and this sales tax. The county has done a lot with this relatively low tax – it’s a penny on every ten dollars spent in the county.
The county has a Transportation Master Plan which can be viewed on its website: bouldercounty.gov/transportation. For those who want to learn more about the master plan and what the county has done with the tax money so far, there is also a video from a recent virtual town hall meeting held on the 14th June of this year.
The county plan includes multimodal transportation needs for cars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians and hikers.
Ongoing services include Ride Free Lafayette, bus rapid transit, the regional trail system that connects other communities, and transportation for vulnerable community members. A new service that started this summer is the Lyons Flyer, a bus that connects the city of Boulder to the city of Lyon.
The county is aware of the need for infrastructure resilience to weather changes due to climate change. Keeping roads and trails resilient in the face of increased flooding, fires and heat waves is part of the county’s transportation master plan.
Transit services are designed to complement RTD services or local services like VIA. All county transportation programs are delivered through partnerships. At local and regional level.
Over the past 20 years, Boulder County has used that tax money to expand and pave 97 miles of highway shoulders and improve safety at 13 intersections. The county added 23 miles of new regional trails along with maintaining and repairing existing trails and constructing 6 new pedestrian underpasses.
The tax is also used to leverage additional state, regional, and federal funding, as most of this funding is only available to a community that can provide matching funds.
The county’s plan for the next 15 years includes “Vision Zero,” which is to eliminate serious injuries and fatalities on county roads by 2025. It wants to provide “mobility for all” that includes our vulnerable citizens who have transportation needs like everyone else but are unable to drive, cycle, walk or use a conventional bus.
Fern O’Brien, [email protected]
Boulder County voters approved a 0.1% transportation sales tax beginning in 2001. The tax was extended in 2007 and is set to expire in 2024. Tax funds have been put to good use, improving roads, adding shoulders and road extensions for cyclists, funding public transit projects, the construction of underpasses for pedestrians and the creation of multi-use trail links between communities in the county. Boulder County is considering a ballot measure to extend the tax through 2039, and I support it. The reasons for the tax are just as valid today as they were in 2001 and 2007, and Boulder County continues to grow.
As often happens with successful programs, some have questioned whether to not only extend the tax, but also increase it. I wonder if now is the right time to increase the transport tax. First, there’s a tough road to travel (pun intended) for the national economy, and the county hasn’t argued for an immediate increase. Second, two other tax increase proposals should be on the ballot, both of which address pressing needs.
One is a proposed 0.1% countywide sales tax to fund wildfire mitigation efforts for strategic forest and grassland projects and to help residents. make their homes more fire resistant through one-on-one technical assistance and discounts. The Marshall fire has awakened us all to the heightened fire risk in today’s environment, polls show overwhelming public support for the tax, and its urgency requires little explanation.
The other expected proposal is for another 0.1% sales tax, decreasing to 0.05% after five years, to fund emergency response, including search and rescue, fire in mountainous and rural areas and forest firefighting personnel, among others. The tax is levied in advance to meet an immediate need for a building to house the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG). RMRG is one of the oldest and most experienced mountain rescue teams in the nation, it is Boulder County’s premier mountain rescue agency, and it is all volunteer.
On that last point, the county is required by Colorado law to provide emergency response services, and it contracts with RMRG to provide professional volunteers at no cost. The county houses RMRG in a former vehicle repair shop, and RMRG’s needs to serve a growing county have gone beyond the building. A new building would be used for equipment storage, training and education, and it could be used by other county personnel. It is a valid proposition.
Andrew Shoemaker, [email protected]
Even in socialist paradise of Boulder, most people think our tax burden is high. A third of those polled recently think our taxes are way too high. While the 0.1% county sales tax for transportation projects doesn’t sound like much, it’s on top of the 1% we already pay RTD. And this tax represents 10% of the total taxes collected by the county through a sales tax. Moreover, this extension of the transport tax will probably not be the only tax proposal in the next election. Proposals for wildfire mitigation and emergency response, both of which are more needed than more bike lanes, are under consideration. Is it death by a thousand cuts?
So, what has this tax brought us over the past twenty years? One hundred miles of paved shoulders and 23 miles of new trails – just one mile a year. Plus, intersection safety improvements, six pedestrian underpasses, and some support for nine transit routes. More than half of the total cost of these projects came from federal and state funds, so this tax buys us improvements for fifty cents on the dollar.
It’s nice to be able to vote specifically on how our taxes are spent, but shouldn’t any worthwhile project be covered by the general fund, where the relative choices and priorities must be decided by our elected representatives? Such taxes only exist at the state level and below. We never make specific revenue decisions at the federal level.
This transit tax is akin to having a separate district to fund the library, a proposition I’m against, but I’m more in love with this tax for purely selfish reasons: I like trails and broad shoulders. However, this tax does not only cover cycling improvements. It makes me wonder if we should have even finer taxes to protect funding for projects that are dear to me. It’s a bit self-centered, isn’t it? More than a little.
When voting on taxes like this, it’s now the voters’ responsibility to prioritize what’s most important. Living in Superior, I am very concerned about forest fire mitigation. As an outdoor enthusiast, I also appreciate our emergency and rescue services. As a cyclist, I like our large network of cycle paths. In November, if you feel pressured by the high tax burden, I encourage you to think hard about priorities when selecting which taxes to bless.
Bill Wright, [email protected]