In the middle of my seventh year on Durango City Council, I find that my attention has turned to strategic planning around long-term civic needs. This effort must occur even as the council and staff attend to ongoing operations and short-term planning associated with embedding city council goals in the annual budget.
Central to long-term planning is to understand citizen priorities for the future. What do you think might be good investments of additional tax dollars? What kind of additional taxes might you be willing to support? The city will pose these questions to our residents during “Colorado Cities and Towns Week” in September.
As I outlined in my April 22 column, the new comprehensive plan that will frame Durango’s development over the coming decades includes five areas that need significant investments. Alphabetically, they are: arts & culture, facilities, housing, stormwater and transit. Within each of these broad topics are numerous capital and operational needs. Moreover, the city has only a limited range of resources to call upon, primarily sales tax, property tax, lodgers tax and utility and other fees.
According to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, new taxes or tax increases require voter approval. Fees for services, such as water, sewer, trash collection and recycling, go into Enterprise Funds for designated purposes. Fee increases do not require voter approval, but City Council understands that the legal distinction between taxes and fees makes no difference to the resident or business owner who makes the payments.
The comprehensive plan also addresses critical fire protection and emergency services. The city now receives these under a contract with the Durango Fire Protection District, which subsumed the former Durango Fire Department 15 years ago.
Because of a major funding shortfall deriving primarily from the precipitous drop in property taxes for oil and gas production, DFPD is seeking a mill levy increase from its members in La Plata County outside Durango.
To continue paying our fair share to support these essential services while maintaining other operational functions, council has voted to put a parallel property tax increase on the city ballot in November. I will elaborate on the importance of this measure in a future column.
During “Cities and Towns Week” beginning Sept. 11, the city will host a series of events to solicit public input on other priorities for the future of Durango.
How shall we as a community address the diverse needs identified in the comprehensive plan? How can we address the challenges of a growing and aging population with our limited resources? Are residents and businesses willing to contribute more in the form of new taxes or fees? If so, what kind? What key priorities deserve additional investments? Which should come first? Which might come later? Which should not advance at all?
Please offer your perspective on our future by participating in one or more of the following events. For details and updates, see http://www.durangogov.org/CitiesandTowns.
Sept. 11-15 – Information boards and surveys (Library)Sept. 10-17 – Virtual city hall survey (online)Monday, Sept. 11: Community forum regarding “Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Master Plan” (6 p.m., Recreation Center)Tuesday, Sept. 12: “Council on the Town” discussions with community members (all day, various locations)Wednesday, Sept. 13: Surveys available at the Green Business Roundtable (noon, Henry Strater Theatre)Thursday, Sept. 14: Public forum at Ska-BQ (5 p.m., Ska Brewery) Friday, Sept. 15: Community conversation and city showcase partnered with the Durango Chamber of Commerce’s Business after Hours (5 p.m., Recreation Center; refreshments available!)Thursday, Sept. 21: Kiwanis pancake day (all day, fairgrounds)Right now, we are dealing with the most difficult bear season in at least five years. With limited food in the mountains, owing to a late freeze, many more bears are coming to town. It is crucial to keep all trash inaccessible or in bear-proof trash containers until at least 6 a.m. on pick-up days.
To incentivize conformance, City Council on Sept. 5 will consider an emergency ordinance to eliminate warnings for initial violations, instead authorizing immediate citations.
If you need a bear-proof container, call 375-5004 ($200, payable in small monthly installments).
If you already have one, be sure to secure the lid, especially at night.
Also, talk with your neighbors about the importance of keeping your neighborhood safe from bears marauding for food.
If necessary, report violations to Code Enforcement at 375-4930.
You will help protect your families, your property and the bears, too.
Dick White is the mayor of Durango, a position rotating among members of City Council. He was re-elected to City Council in 2015 and will serve as mayor until April 2018, when he will be succeeded by now-Mayor Pro Tem Sweetie Marbury. Reach him at DickWhite@DurangoGov.org.