We noted with interest that Durango City Council, after it met Tuesday, is moving toward putting another tax increase on the ballot, this time in April.
That would be just five months after the city put its 2A tax package, a combination of property and sales tax hikes, before voters and saw it go down to resounding defeat.
Some of the councilors seemed to get it. Chris Bettin, Dean Brookie and Mellisa Youssef, at a meeting the week before, said they had concerns about going back to the same well so soon. But Mayor Sweetie Marbury and Councilor Dick White, who will step down in April due to term limits, wanted to press ahead with an April tax question.
We appreciate that city leaders who know they will not have to face voters again have the courage to pursue this, but it is still bad policy.
City leaders now seem to support a request for a sales tax increase. White said earlier that if the city didn’t go for an increase now, it would not be able to do so until April 2021 because the city does not want to have its tax increase on a November ballot again. “The November ballots are toxic,” he explained.
Last November’s ballot was the ballot of the blue wave, of course. In Colorado, Democrats were elected and re-elected to most state and local offices, including the La Plata County Commission, the county treasurer’s office, the Colorado House and Senate and on up to governor. Do Democrats think that was a toxic ballot? That seems like strong language to us.
There were also numerous requests for tax increases on that ballot, for roads and education as well as the city’s 2A, and they all went down to defeat, often thumpingly. City leaders thought theirs was safer because, they said, they had done polling that showed them that increasing both property and sales taxes at the same time would be popular. That always seemed farfetched to us.
What happened this past November, as far as we can tell, is that many city, county and state residents voted a straight Democratic ticket for offices because they were fed up with President Donald Trump and saw anyone in his party as an enabler of him. When they got to the ballot questions, they also said clearly that they were in no mood to pay more in taxes. Perhaps they were saying they could not afford to pay more in taxes – we know people in Durango who feel they are being priced out of the city already, and the torrent of fee increases for water, trash and sewer are not helping.
We are not convinced the city has all the revenue it needs if it would just institute a pay freeze or shift funding from parks or find a more cost-efficient way to house police headquarters – although we do think 2A’s failure should make councilors give these and other things a long look before they put another tax on the ballot, even one that is scaled back.
There may come a time when we are convinced the city should ask voters for more, and we will say so. Good government is not free. But good government also ought to show it is willing to do its part to contain rising costs.