Longmont City Council Postpones Decisions on Supporting or Opposing Several Ballot Questions
Longmont City Council members on Tuesday did not declare their support of or opposition to several potential tax increase measures under consideration for the 2019 or 2020 ballots.
Late Tuesday night, council voted 6-1 to postpone further discussions of a countywide property or sales tax hike to help fund affordable housing programs.
Under a motion by Councilwoman Bonnie Finley, council tabled discussions of that proposed ballot question until city staff can commission or conduct a public opinion poll about whether Longmont voters would approve or oppose such a tax.
That poll, suggested by Councilwoman Joan Peck, also would survey voters’ positions on the idea of a possible tax increase and bond issue to finance construction and operating costs of a proposed $42.4 million aquatics center that would house a competitive swimming pool and ice rink.
Councilwoman Polly Christensen cast the only dissenting vote on Peck’s motion to direct staff to poll residents on the possible aquatics center and the countywide affordable-housing tax proposal — as well as on Finley’s separate motion to table the affordable housing discussion until council gets the poll results.
Christensen argued the council need not delay expressing support for a countywide affordable-housing tax ballot question, an idea the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership is asking all of Boulder County’s city councils and town boards to weigh in on this month.
Council members also voted 6-1 for a motion from Mayor Brian Bagley that city staff continue negotiating with St. Vrain Valley School District on a long-term school district financial commitment toward leasing an aquatics center for swim team practices and events. Council said it would like a commitment in place for council and school board consideration by the end of April.
Christensen also voted against that motion.
As for another possible question that could eventually be headed for Longmont ballots — establishing a tax-supported library district that could fund operations of and major improvements to the library — several council members had questions about what role future councils would have in budgetary and non-budget decisions about the library if voters approve creating the district.
However, council members did vote unanimously for a Bagley motion to direct staff “to get involved in the library district conversation.” A community group has been meeting to explore the possibility of putting a question on the ballots of Longmont-area voters living within a district’s yet-to-be-defined boundaries.
Thus far, the only municipal taxing measure that appears almost certain to be guaranteed on Longmont voters’ 2019 or 2020 ballots is one seeking to make the city’s ¾ -cent street sales tax permanent, rather than returning to voters every five or 10 years for extensions of the tax originally approved in 1986.
The tax, which generates about $16.2 million annually to help pay for maintaining and improving streets, traffic signals, sidewalks, trails, signs and transit-support expenses, is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2026, unless voters renew it or make it permanent before then.
Staff presented a brief review of the idea on Tuesday, and council members did not indicate they’d changed their minds about advancing it to the ballot. But they also did not signal whether they wanted it on this year’s or the 2020 ballot.
Two people spoke against the potential countywide affordable-housing tax during Tuesday’s public-comment segment of the council’s study session. No residents went to the microphone to speak in support of the proposal.
W. Vito Montone, a Sanctuary Circle resident and representative of the community group working on the idea of creating a tax-supported library district, said a district would provide the opportunity to continue and expand the library’s services and programs without having to compete for funding with other essential services.
Council members also heard from Emery Street resident Sharon O’Leary and Westview Middle School student Celeste Haverstick about the need for an aquatics center.
O’Leary said, “It’s time to move forward” with that design and construction of such a center.
Haverstick, a 13-year-old member of the Longmont Redtails swim club, said an aquatics center has been particularly needed in the past seven months that Centennial Pool has been closed for still-underway repairs.
However, Ingrid Moore, who lives on Little Leaf Court, said an indoor ice rink “would only benefit a small minority of Longmont residents.”
Moore suggested the city should instead pursue development of what she said has been a long-promised full-scale recreation center in southwest Longmont, and not one that focuses solely on competitive swimming and ice hockey.
No one from the general public spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting against the library district idea or spoke either for or against the proposal to make the street sales tax permanent.
John Fryar: 303-684-5211, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jfryartc