MONTROSE – Supporters of Measure B received a huge boost Tuesday when the Montrose City Council joined together to publicly support passage of the proposed .03 percent sales tax increase to build a $24.2 million-dollar Community Recreation Center in Montrose. The proposal will go to voters in April.
Councilor Kathy Ellis, proclaiming herself the "most conservative" of all council members, said passage of Measure B will "put people back to work," increase property values and quality of life for all residents and become a permanent economic driver for both the city and Montrose County.
"This is the first time and last time I will ever vote for a tax increase," Ellis said.
Council’s Resolution 2014-07 maintains that the estimated $4.6 million in revenue the new rec center is projected to annually create will have a substantial impact "both directly and indirectly on our local economy," and translate to an increase in full-time construction jobs throughout the Montrose community.
Because Montrose serves as a regional shopping center for the cities and surrounding areas of Gunnison, Ouray, Ridgway, Telluride, Olathe and Mountain Village , the CRC will raise a "significant portion" of sales taxes from visiting shoppers and tourists, as well as “improve the quality of life in the entire community," the resolution read. "This resolution urges voters of the City of Montrose to vote ‘yes,’” said Councilor Bob Nicholson.
Ellis and Nicholson disagreed with critics of Measure B such as Montrose resident Becky Waugh, who maintained there are some figures the public has yet to be told, including the total dollar amount that is being borrowed to pay for the center and exactly how much will be raised by the .3 percent sales tax increase, which is structured to sunset after an estimated 25 years.
"I feel that the proposal is too expensive for this town," Waugh said.
"I know when she (Waugh) researches something it comes from a labor of love. In this instance, I disagree with her," Ellis said.
Ellis said she was not impressed with recent letters stating, in effect, “Only the rich will use (the CRC), while [as a result of its being built] poor people will have to worry about putting food on the table."
Ellis said an average of 1,000 people use the Durango CRC per day. If approved, Ellis said, the city's sales tax would rise one percent. By contrast, Delta voters approved a similar CRC with a tax increase nearly three times the one percent increase the Montrose Recreation District (MRD) is proposing.
When calculated, the tax will raise $3 for every $1,000 spent in the city.
Ellis, who is married to County Commissioner Gary Ellis, said the increase is worth the benefit the community will receive.
"Gary and I will spend $24 a year on this tax," Ellis estimated. "That is less than one round of golf”.
She said local restaurants and hotels should be support the CRC.
"This is not going to destroy business. It's going to increase it," Ellis said.
Nicholson said efforts by opponent Curtis Robinson, who created the coalition against Measure B as well as the website www.stopthewreck.org, were "disingenuous" because Robinson supported a city buyout of the Black Canyon Golf Course, of which Robinson was a part of.
Robinson said figures compiled by RPI Consulting for an economic study presented by the MRD last week were unrealistic, inflated and did not serve the community's best interest. He said he favored a property tax increase instead.
Robinson said he was not opposed to a rec center, though he took particular note of the $4.6 million in annual revenue would supposedly bring to the city, saying that estimate was not accurate, and that the figure was closer to $1 million dollars annually.
Other opponents, who live outside the city, had previously told councilors they feel Measure B is "taxation without representation" because they would not have a decision in the vote.
The MRD is seeking $25.5 million dollars through Measure B to pay for the CRC and repurpose the Montrose Aquatic Center.
"Those sales tax funds, along with about $700,000 of existing District annual revenues that are available and produced by the District's mill levy, lottery funds, grants and operating fees, will cover the annual lease purchase payments of approximately $1.9 million," the MRD states. "Existing District revenues will also cover the operating deficit of the CRC.”
Fifteen-year-old Gabriela Pacheco told councilors that 20 percent of the Montrose area population was Hispanic and said immigrants to the area were also in favor of the CRC as a recreation resource.
"It's not about taxes, it’s about an investment in our community," Pacheco said.
Mayor Judy Ann Files noted the city's motto was "Quality of life is our commitment" and voted in favor of the resolution.
The city's municipal election is nearly six weeks away. Final votes must be cast by 7 p.m. on April 1st, at City Hall.