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Crawford will take 5-mill increase to voters

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In a meeting continued from the Aug. 3 session, Crawford Town Council voted, 5-1, on Aug. 17 to place a mill levy increase on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.

If approved, the increase will bring the mill levy back to mid-1990s levels, said Mayor Wanda Gofforth.

While the town experienced a decline in mineral and severance tax dollars of about $9,400 from 2014 to 2015 due to mine closures in the North Fork Valley, losses for this year and beyond are unknown. According to calculations by Delta County Assessor Debbie Griffith, a three mill increase would result in a revenue increase in 2017 of $7,467, while a 5-mill increase would raise revenues by $12,445.

The town currently collects about $6,400 in property taxes annually.

"I think we should ask for some breathing room for the town," said trustee John Paton, who voted against the 5-mill increase because he believes the town should try for an increase of six or seven mills to begin making up for the losses. "Either that or we'll be asking for a mill levy increase every year."

Paton said the town should give itself a little leeway. Things aren't going to get any better in the valley," he said. "There isn't any bright spot on the horizon."

I'm thinking of the taxpayers more than anything," said council member Chriss Watters, suggesting the town start with a 3-mill increase. "I think it would be a little easier for the taxpayers to go along with it."

In 2014 Crawford passed TABOR Ballot Question 2A to allow the town "to retain existing tax and fee revenue for construction of roads and maintenance of town hall and other structures," by a vote of 119-25. Any increases in revenue would go to those uses, said Gofforth. The state also recommends including another de-Brucing statement with the ballot issue. "Then people will know the money will stay in the town and not go back to the state under TABOR."

In addition, a report showing how the increase will affect individual property owners is available for viewing at Town Hall. While most property owners would see increases of a few dollars a year, Gofforth said the increase to her property taxes would be slightly over $100 per year. "I figure that's a little over eight dollars a month," she said.

The town will be mailing out a brochure explaining the proposed ballot question and an invitation to a town hall meeting on Oct. 19. Delta County Assessor Debbie Griffith will attend the meeting to explain how a mill levy will increase property taxes, and council members will be on hand to answer questions.

In other business, council continued discussion on purchase of security cameras for Town Hall and voted to direct public works director Bruce Bair to spend up to $500 for a system. The town has $2,000 on account with the CIRSA, "So this is not going to affect our budget," said Gofforth.

Natasha Leger, interim executive director for Citizens for a Healthy Community, asked for support for Alternative B of the Bureau of Land Management's Draft Resource Management Plan, for which public comment will be taken until Nov. 1. Leger gave a brief explanation of the draft RMP and reminded the town that it submitted a letter of support in 2013 for the "North Fork Alternative Plan," which is contained in Alternative B.1. That alternative, said Leger, closes off about 75 percent of available federal mineral and gas estates on BLM lands in the North Fork area to leasing. She asked the town to consider a letter of support for either the North Fork Alternative or a no-leasing alternative, stressing the down side of industrial-scale development and health risks that oil and gas development could have on the area.

While she understands that council may disagree, "From a CHC perspective we feel that is the way to protect the community, from a health perspective."

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North Fork
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