Approximately 150 residents attended the Town Hall Meeting at the Lake House on Tuesday, June 6th. People turned out to learn more about the proposed Local Improvement District (LID) that could put a measure on the November ballot to add a 1% sales tax.
Dean Dalvit, leader of Greater DEED, the organization behind the effort to bring improvements in infrastructure to Evergreen, explained that, because Evergreen never incorporated as a city, special districts sprang up to meet the needs for such things as water and sanitation, fire protection, and parks and recreation. The one hole left is highways and unifying the four activity centers (El Rancho, Bergen Park, North Evergreen and Downtown).
While incorporation might have made sense 30, 40 or 50 years ago when residents could have had more say over the development of Evergreen, it didn't happen then, Dean pointed out. He referenced an article previously published in JustAroundHere.com entitled "Incorporation: Why Evergreen never became a city" to explain the previous efforts undertaken and the concerns that have been raised over the years.
What would a LID mean for Evergreen?
- A LID would not be a new layer of government; it would be handled by the County Commissioners with a local Advocacy Committee to give input. This would eliminate the need to hire personnel or to pay for offices and benefits of employees of a local government.
- All money raised by a sales tax to support the LID would need to be spent within the district itself. The County could not use any of the money to defray existing expenditures.
- In anticipation of sales taxes to be collected, the County could roll Evergreen improvements into larger bond issues with more favorable rates.
- A LID would improve the status of state highways running through Evergreen, which are now regarded as "rural" in the same category as roads south of Fairplay.
- Monies would be used to augment other projects that might be funded by CDOT, such as beautifying roundabouts or medians that might be added to deal with increasing traffic flow. Adding trees or other natural elements would reduce the amount of concrete and blacktop.
Dean pointed out that a voluntary 1% charge on purchases has been underway in more than 30 businesses for several years to support the Evergreen Legacy Fund. Those monies have helped to fund studies in cooperation with the Evergreen Park and Recreation District for improvements to the Evergreen Lake Trail and the Trails Master Plan. Funds were used to help link the lake trail to downtown.
Additional funds were offered to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to improve crosswalks on Main Street, but CDOT is not permitted to work with independent groups such as DEED. It is required to work through Inter-Governmental Agreements. Having a LID would enable such projects to take place, as the County could initiate such agreements.
"It would be a mechanism by which we could get projects accomplished," Dean said.
Evergreen's tax rate among the lowest in entire metro area
Evergreen has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the entire Metro area; it is currently 4.5%. Of 16 municipalities being compared, 11 charge 7% or more, with just 4 falling under 6%. In addition, many of the malls such as Park Meadows, Colorado Mills or Belmar add on a Business Improvement District Fee or Public Improvement Fee. Since 1988 Southwest Plaza has fallen into a Local Improvement District, which has enabled the unincorporated area to have crosswalks, curbs and gutters.
Groceries, services and gasoline are exempt from sales taxes.
The people who pass through Evergreen or who live outside the district but who shop in Evergreen or at Home Depot and Walmart would be paying a considerable amount of the sales tax. A person who spends $2,500 a year on taxable purchases would be paying $25 in the LID tax.
Betsy Hays, President of the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke to the audience saying the Chamber is in support of the formation of a LID.
The next steps
Formation of a LID does not require a vote, but it does require boundaries and a revenue stream. The boundaries would include the areas already designated by the Evergreen Metro District and by the West Jefferson County Metropolitan District. Until a sales tax is approved, the voluntary Evergreen Legacy Fund will serve as the revenue stream.
The group will ask County Commissioners to take on administration of the LID in upcoming weeks and will seek approval of a 1% sales tax in either November, 2017 or May 2018.
Because of the size of the crowd, a planned question-and-answer period gave way to one-on-one opportunities to ask questions and put sticky notes on comment boards.