Below is My Response Printed in the Jan/Feb 2015 Issue of the Neighborhood Gazette
I have been asked to respond to the Neighborhood Gazette articles by Council Members Tim Fitzgerald and George Pond. Tim is asked why citizens voted against 2A and 2B and George chastised the voters for not “answering the bell” by voting for a sales tax increase (2A).
The City of Wheat Ridge is not broke. As I have stated before, the City has an unrealistic reserve policy that needs to be changed.
2A would have resulted in the City of Wheat Ridge having one of the highest sales tax rates in the Denver metro area at 8.5% (currently 7.5%). 2A would have resulted in a 33% increase in the cost to retail consumers. 2A would have resulted in a 33% increase in the cost of development and/or redevelopment in the form of increased use tax.
Currently, the median income for a family of four (4) in Wheat Ridge is $44,000. Studies have shown that quality retail follows residential. Housing in Wheat Ridge is made up of 47% rental properties; many of which are occupied by families with low disposable incomes (as stated earlier). 2A did not address future funding for improving the housing stock and promoting home ownership in Wheat Ridge as described in the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy (NRS) via public/private partnerships. Wheat Ridge 2020 dropped the ball on this NRS goal a few years back as well.
Council has not performed the needed due diligence on the City budget to demonstrate fiscal responsibility to the voters. Based on my 38th Avenue Survey in 2013 and comments from constituents across the City, I believe City Council has lost the trust of the public by spending over $615,000 on a two-lane “pilot” project for 38th Avenue which has divided residents and business owners. The previous Council created a win-lose situation. This situation could have been avoided with a little listening, compromise and forethought by the previous and current City Councils.
Maintaining a 17%-27% budget reserve creates an artificial shortfall of funds. A portion of the reserve funds should be used on public works and/or redevelopment projects. Other cities in Jeffco (as well as previous City Councils) maintain an 8%-15% reserve. It’s time to spend taxpayer money on the taxpayers and not hoard tax dollars for some future disaster. This reserve policy is not fiscally conservative; it is too extreme and not sound public policy.
2B, and its proposed cost of $9.3 million for 8 blocks with a large amount of that cost going underground to “dig up” 38th Ave. and move perfectly good drain/sewer/water pipes inward, killed 2A.
I contend the will of the people has been usurped by the will of the Council via win-lose projects and programs over the past three (3) years. The trust of the people has been lost by the previous and current City Council, no matter what the “professional and scientific” surveys say. In my opinion, voters are not going to approve any tax increases until the 38th Ave. revitalization plan is worked out with a win-win solution.