Boulder Council Considers Road Maintenance Funding

At a recent study session, Boulder City Council members considered a variety of funding mechanisms for road maintenance. Boulder, like many municipalities in our area, doesn’t have enough in its general fund to cover road work, which is expensive. Some of the ideas that have been discussed include a monthly transportation maintenance fee or tax, either of which would be collected on utility bills, a sales tax or an employee tax on people who work in Boulder.

Either way, it appears that some type of transportation fee or tax is likely to appear before Boulder voters in November. The City Council has until August to decide which type of funding mechanism to choose, because that’s when the ballot language must be finalized.

Transportation department officials originally asked the City Council to consider a transportation maintenance fee based on square footage and type of property using four categories: retail, office, industrial and residential. It is assumed the fee would be paid by other government entities such as the Boulder Valley School District and federal entities such as NIST or NCAR.

However, in meetings with community groups and in polling, many Boulder residents and business owners said they would prefer a tax to a fee, and a higher tax actually polled better than a lower tax. Transportation department staff suggested a tax that would be on utility bills and based on a similar assessment methodology to the fee.

The Council was divided regarding the optimal funding mechanism. George Karakehian said he would prefer a sales tax. It would avoid questions of rebates or credits for employers who pay for EcoPasses, and tourists and workers as well as residents would pay it. Suzanne Jones wanted something “exciting” saying, “Pavement maintenance is important, but there is nothing sexy about that.”

Councilwoman Lisa Morzel argued for a head tax, saying, “The only people who are going to be paying for this are the people who live here,” she said. “We are not going to be addressing the 50,000, 60,000 people who commute into Boulder. I would favor a head tax.” Note: Many municipalities are struggling with paying for road maintenance. It will be interesting to see what the Council decides to try and the research used to justify its rationale.

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