Safer Wildlife Crossing, Lodger's Tax Update

8/19/2022

The Durango City Council has identified three priority areas that it has asked residents to rank as part of its proposal to ask voters to retain $1.3 million dollars in excess Lodgers Tax revenues; find out what they are. A new wildlife crossing on U.S. Highway 160 is expected to lower wildlife-vehicle collisions; and find out what's new at this year's San Juan Brewfest. This story is sponsored by the Man Cave Barber and Kroegers Ace Hardware

A tax question to retain excessive Lodgers' tax revenues appears headed for the November ballot, but how those funds will be spent is still to be determined. You're watching the local news Roundup, brought to you by Kroeger's Ace Hardware and Man Cave Barber. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Durango residents ranked housing, parking, and the arts as the top three items they want the city to fund. If voters allow the city to keep 1.3 million dollars in excess Lodgers' tax revenues. The Durango city council continues to mull over options to deal with Lodger tax revenues that exceeded limits imposed by the TABOR Amendment, better known as the taxpayer bill of rights. Tabor requires any ballot language for a proposed tax increase to include a limit on the total amount of revenues that the new tax would generate. When voters approved a 3.25% increase in the Lodgers' tax in spring 2021, the ballot question set a limit at a conservative $900,000 for 2021, but a post-COVID rebound in tourism in summer 2021 generated nearly 1.6 million in revenues, about $700,000 more than the Tabor limit. A similar excess is expected by the end of 2022. In an online survey conducted in late July, Durango residents ranked spending the excess revenues on the areas originally approved by voters in the 2021 ballot language as their top priority. Those areas included 55% on sustainable tourism marketing, 20% for transportation and transit services, 14% for arts and cultural programming and 11% for any purpose related to tourism's impact on the community. Survey respondents also were asked what other purposes they would support. Housing, parking and arts were their top three priorities. Refunding the excess revenues ranked sixth. A second survey conducted in August asked residents again to rank housing, parking, and arts. So far, proposed versions of the ballot language include provisions that would allow the city to keep all Lodgers' tax revenues in the future, effectively de-taborizing the Lodger's tax. If the ballot measure fails, city staff have proposed to refund the excess lodger's tax revenues as rebates on city utility bills. The council is expected to make a final decision on the ballot question by its regular September 6th meeting. To follow the issue, visit Durangogov.org. A new $12 million wildlife overpass and underpass on US Highway 160 is expected to reduce animal vehicle collisions by 85% or more. The over and underpasses are located about 37 miles east of Durango and 13 miles west of Pagosa Springs, near the intersection of Colorado highway 151 and 160. The Colorado Department of Transportation dedicated the two wildlife crossings in early August. The multi-year project included construction of two miles of eight foot tall fencing on both sides of US Highway 160. CDOT's Region Five, which includes Highway 160, had the highest rate of vehicle animal collisions in the state during 2021 with more than 2100 roadkill incidents reported. More than 300 of those incidents occurred on US Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs. More than 60% of the crashes near the Highway 151 intersection involve animals. For more information, visit CODOT.gov. Get your taste buds ready. The 23rd annual San Juan Brew Fest that benefits United Way of Southwest Colorado returns on Friday and Saturday August 26th and 27th at Buckley Park. New this year is a special VIP night from 5:00 to 8:00 PM on Friday with a limit of 500 tickets sold. VIP ticket holders will be treated to tastings from 35 participating breweries, live music and dinner provided by the Second Avenue Deli and Spirits and Cream Bean Berry. VIP tickets are a hundred dollars each, general admission tastings will be from 1:00 to 5:00 PM on Saturday. General admission tickets are $45. Participants must be at least 21 years to enter the tasting area. About a third of the breweries are from Southwest Colorado, according to a news release from the Business Improvement District, which organizes the event along with the United Way. Prior to the pandemic, the Brew Fest generated about $50,000 for United Way of Southwest Colorado. United Way supports nonprofits in La Plata, Montezuma, Dolores, Archaleta and San Juan counties. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Sanjuanbrewfest.com. Thanks for watching this week's Local News Roundup. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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