1A: Misleading statements

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“Our sales tax – which funds road repair – has remained stagnant for 30+ years,” reads, in part, a social media post from Oct. 12 made by a local political issue committee, Committee for Safe Roads 1A, which has been funded by the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation (PSCDC) to the tune of $16,250. 

That funding reflects an additional $6,250 contributed by the PSCDC on Oct. 13.

Ironically, Committee for Safe Roads 1A’s website states: “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.”

That social media statement above is one of those misleading statements. 

Committee for Safe Roads 1A’s website reminds us to “look for sourced facts and backup data, especially when speculating dollar amounts. Monetary figures that aren’t tied to verified sources can easily be untrue.”

The county’s most recent sales tax report reflects that while the sales tax rate has been the same for many years, sales tax revenues derived from that rate have increased over three times what the collections were in 2004, when the report began compiling historical data.

That same report documents the following detail about sales tax revenues that are split between the town and county, with a commitment to spend a percentage of the revenues on roads:

• 2004 sales tax collections totaled $5,241,844.22, a 6.49 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2005 sales tax collections totaled $5,988,493.31, a 14.24 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2006 sales tax collections totaled $6,559,638.38, a 9.54 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2007 sales tax collections totaled $6,651,580.99, a 1.4 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2008 sales tax collections totaled $6,614,241.51, a 0.56 percent decrease from the previous year.

• 2009 sales tax collections totaled $6,059,251.84, a 8.39 percent decrease from the previous year.

• 2010 sales tax collections totaled $7,924,548.63, a 2.28 percent decrease from the previous year.

It should be noted that the 2010 collections are documented as a decrease due to $2,003,477.99 received as the result of an audit performed by the state of Colorado for the audit period of Feb. 1, 2003, through Dec. 31, 2008.

• 2011 sales tax collections totaled $6,333,633.72, a 6.97 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2012 sales tax collections totaled $6,341,498.76, a 0.12 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2013 sales tax collections totaled $6,688,757.00, a 5.48 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2014 sales tax collections totaled $7,167,038.93, a 7.15 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2015 sales tax collections totaled $8,456,092.65, a 17.99 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2016 sales tax collections totaled $9,218,032.83, a 9.01 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2017 sales tax collections totaled $9,886,695.86, a 7.25 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2018 sales tax collections totaled $10,234,708.23, a 3.52 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2019 sales tax collections totaled $11,951,732.06, a 16.78 percent increase over the previous year. 

• 2020 sales tax collections totaled $14,529,075.04, a 21.56 percent increase over the previous year.

• 2021 sales tax collections totaled $17,391,632.23, a 19.7 percent increase over the previous year.

• For 2022 year to date as of August, collections are 5.2 percent higher than 2021.

A report released by Archuleta County just last week shows a 16.1 percent increase in sales tax revenue of $248,446 in August 2022 over August 2021.  

There are some ups and downs reflected in the data, but, overall, these sales tax revenue collections are far from stagnant as the social media post states.

It is also important to note the 2018 Wayfair decision, when counties began collecting taxes from online retailers, was a huge boost to local sales tax collections.

That social media post above goes on to read: “The population and tourism base have steadily increased, putting more strain on roads and infrastructure. The current budget just doesn’t have enough money to keep our roads safe and in good repair. 1A will make our drives safer by fixing our roads and bridges.”

Sales tax is just one piece of the revenue puzzle for the county. Property taxes are a huge piece of that pie. 

In 1988, voters approved a 2 percent sales tax increase and turned around just months later to find their property taxes were increasing by “alarming amounts.” 

Will history repeat itself in 2023 with the new property valuations? 

How will a sales tax increase coupled with a property tax increase affect those who are already struggling to make ends meet?

Those higher property valuations will equate to more money for the county, with a much smaller percentage going to the town.

Designated Election Official and County Manager Derek Woodman provided data outlining the county’s historical fiscal year spending as follows:

• For 2018 (actual): $21,006,810.

• For 2019 (actual): $29,170,380.

• For 2020 (actual): $33,616,893.

• For 2021 (actual): $39,994,310.

• For 2022 (current year estimated): $42,699,028.

That is a 103 percent increase in spending by the county since 2018.

Committee for Safe Roads 1A’s website reminds us to: “Ask yourself what’s opinion and what’s fact. Before you make up your mind, please consider all sides of the issue.

“Look for the treasurer and contact information. Are the backers local or from somewhere else?”

According to the Colorado secretary of state’s website, to date, the Committee for Safe Roads 1A has paid a Durango-based political consultant $2,500 for consultant and professional services. Also listed are payments totaling just over $5,500 to a Durango-based communications company. Additional payments were made to The Pagosa Springs SUN for advertising, which total just over $1,700.

The state’s website also notes a $150 penalty imposed on the committee dated Oct. 19 for failure to file a major contributor report when due.

A small-scale issue committee named Fair Taxes for Archuleta lists its purpose as “disseminate information about tax issues in Archuleta County.” Two local residents are listed as agents for the committee, with no reports filed or due as of press time.

There are multiple ways to spin a sales tax increase to the voters. 

Town council member Brooks Lindner previously shared that he believes that educating the public is key to the successful passing of a ballot measure. He was also concerned about rushing to the polls this year without a solid plan in place. 

We agree. 

Presenting the facts and being up front with the taxpayers would certainly help. Follow the rules set forth by elections officials and follow the law, not just what you believe is the “spirit of the law.”

There is no doubt our community deserves better infrastructure, including roads; however, over the years, multiple increases in sales tax collections and doubling the spending have not seemed to result in safer roads in the county. 

Building trust with the taxpayers will go a long way in successfully passing a sales tax increase.

Terri Lynn Oldham House