LONE TREE, Colo. — This story is part of a series of statewide ballot issue reviews we're calling "We Don't Have To Agree, But Let's Just Vote." We'll continue to look at statewide ballot initiatives on Colorado's ballot and how they would impact you.
Lone Tree Ballot Issue 2E
The city of Lone Tree is asking its voters for a 1% increase in the sales tax rate to fund city services, including public safety, infrastructure, and parks and recreation.
The city's sales tax is currently 1.5%, which was the rate set when the city was incorporated in 1995. It's among the lowest sales tax rates on the Front Range.
The language on the ballot
Shall city of Lone Tree taxes be increased not more than $15,563,749 annually beginning Jan. 1, 2022 and by such amounts as are raised annually thereafter for a period of 10 years, by an additional temporary sales and use tax of 1%, excluding the sale of food for home consumption and motor vehicles which shall remain exempt from city taxation, to be used to maintain vital city services for local residents including:
- Repairing, maintaining, and improving city streets and aging infrastructure;
- Maintaining service and response times for public safety; and
- Maintaining and improving parks, trails, and open space.
With all spending of such revenues reported in the city's annual independent audit published on the city's web site and reviewed by a citizen committee, and shall the resulting revenue and investment earnings thereon be allowed to be collected, retained and spent by the city notwithstanding the limits of Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law?
Yes or no?
A YES vote means you want the city to increase the sales tax rate by 1% to 2.5% to maintain city services, repair and improve streets and infrastructure, and maintain and improve parks and recreation.
A NO vote means you don't want the city to increase its sales tax rate.
What that means
The city of Lone Tree set its sales tax rate at 1.5% when the city was incorporated about 25 years ago, and that rate has not increased since.
The rate is among the lowest on the Front Range, according to an analysis by the city.
Lone Tree says its sales tax rate has served it well up to now, but slowdowns in commercial development and increases in online shopping flattened the revenue the city collects from its sales tax.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The city's revenues from its sales tax dropped from $25.5 million in 2019 to $14.1 million in 2020. The city's projected revenue for 2021 is about $15.8 million.
Also, Lone Tree doesn't have a property tax, occupational privilege tax, tax on food for home consumption or tax on vehicles, which means the city does not get revenue from any of those sources.
According to a city analysis, at the current sales tax rate, Lone Tree will see a cumulative gap of $100 million between projected revenues and expenses over the next 15 years.
Park Meadows Mall is located in Lone Tree, drawing in shoppers from outside the city. In fact, Lone Tree says that 95% of its shoppers live outside city limits, which would put at least some of the burden of a sales tax increase on non-residents.
Opponents say Lone Tree's low sales tax rate is a competitive advantage and that raising it would take away that advantage. They also say an increase could hurt some households during a pandemic and that the city instead could cut service levels like city-paid trash and recycling to remain within its budget.
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