In the November election, 1,380 people voted FOR increasing sales tax in Saguache County, specifically in support of law enforcement and improving the jail. At the budget hearing on Dec. 3, I was surprised to hear the commissioners debating how much to put in the 2019 budget as revenue from that tax.
The question revolved around a difference in interpretation of the wording on the ballot.
According to Commissioner Tim Lovato, people were questioning whether it was actually “one and one-half percent of one percent.” The difference is significant.
The question, as presented on the ballot, asked for a countywide sales tax increase: “imposed at the rate of 1.5 percent (which represents one and one-half of one cent on each dollar purchase).” The revenue anticipated (based on past years’ sales tax collections) is just over $400,000.
Pursuing Lovato’s line of thinking, “one and one-half percent of one percent” —effectually 0.015 percent) — would reduce revenues significantly to $4,000. Why on earth would anyone even consider this rationale?
Commissioner Jason Anderson clarified that there was no court case, only that the county attorney had placed a query with the Secretary of State – and that only one person was contesting the language. Really? The opinion of a single person outweighs the vote of 1,380 people?
Both commissioners hastened to assure those of us present that the county “absolutely” supported law enforcement and the jail. So, why the controversy? How did the county attorney get involved if the commissioners support the sales tax increase?
County Clerk and Recorder Trish Gilbert has confirmed that the Secretary of State has indicated that this is a county matter and should be handled by the county attorney.
Ultimately it could come down to the interpretation of the county commissioners as to whether or not the sales tax will be collected at the voter-approved rate of 1.5 percent or the made-up rate of 0.015 percent.
Contact your county commissioners and ask them to uphold the will of the people as voted in the November 2018 General Election.
Lisa Cyriacks is an accountant and a voting integrity advocate living in Crestone.