FIRESTONE — Voters in each of Firestone’s precincts had a clear message in response to a proposed temporary increase to sales tax: take a hike.
The 1 percent increase aimed at funding the town’s planned improvements for street and parks, received 45.78 percent (2,314 votes).
The town didn’t sway the 2,741 residents who voted no, despite exclusions for grocery purchases and projections that 70 cents on the dollar would come from customers outside of Firestone.
When the board of trustees decided in July to send the sales tax question to voters this year, Mayor Chad Auer described passage as necessary for the town.
Now, he wonders why voters passed on the measure, but he said the town staff did good work in trying to get the message out to the community.
“We were asking the question because we wanted feedback from the community,” Auer said. “Moving forward, we have a lot of projects that are not optional: improving our roads, maintaining our roads, snow removal, parks, trails, maintenance of the facilities we’ve been building. You know, maintenance isn’t an option.”
Firestone has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the regional community, Auer said, even with a 1-percent increase.
“So we asked the question, ‘Would you like us to boost the sales tax by 1 percent so we can start paying for the maintenance of these important things?’ And of course they said no,” Auer said.
Now the question, he said, turns to how to allocate what’s available.
“So what we’re going to have to do at this point, as a board, we’re looking at any and all options on how what cuts we need to make. Do we need to cut back on parks maintenance? Do we cut back on snow removal?” Auer said. “Everything’s on the table.”
It will be a long and difficult conversation, he said, one that started with a work session by the board of trustees last week.
“There’s a lot of different factors I think that played into the situation. I think certainly the national politics and the economy… and well, that’s probably good enough right there. Those were two important actors in it,” Auer said. “Also, I think there’s other factors that play into the situation. There’s an education piece that needs to happen.”
Auer said the growth in Firestone has been good for a long time, and he suspects some residents might forget the responsibility to maintenance for a growing town.
“As elected officials, there’s only so much we can do. There comes a time when, by law, we’re precluded from campaigning, so to speak,” Auer said. “Obviously, we can campaign and talk about the issues as private citizens, but at the same time, out of all the people who can weigh in on the issue, we’re the ones with the most restraint. The materials, the messaging, the talking points, the data, was great.”
In this area, he said the town’s job was far from done.
“I just think that we just need to continue to inform our citizens of the realities of what it means to be the fastest-growing communities in Colorado,” Auer said. “Another way to look at it is: buying the car is only the beginning of the responsibility that purchase entails. There’s ongoing maintenance, insurance — a bunch of costs occur long after you sign on the dotted line and purchase your new car.”