Opinion: No on 1A: County spending and taxes lack transparency

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash

Friday, Oct. 21, 2022

Learn more about 1A: Countywide wildfire tax

Get a second opinion: Yes on 1A: Fire risk is increasing; funding and protection should, too 

The following is a compilation of arguments against 1A, as Boulder Beat was unable to solicit a “No” op-ed on this measure. Text has beed edited or style, clarity and accuracy.

From the voter guide of Matt Appelbaum and Macon Cowles, former Boulder City Council members (Appelbaum also served as mayor):

The frame of reference about tax issues this year. I will address below a number of issues that call for an increase in taxes, allocating the money to important projects. I have urged support for the passage of nearly every such tax initiative in the past. But I approach this year’s crop of tax measures proposed by Boulder County and the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) with deep skepticism.

Property taxes on Boulder County homes have increased nearly 70% in the last six years, and taxes on business property (because of the Gallagher Amendment) have risen much more sharply than that. 55% of property taxes are allocated to BVSD, 26% to the County, 11% to municipalities and the County receives 45% of its revenue from property taxes, 13% of its revenue from sales tax. See

Source: 2021 Boulder County budget book (page 105)

The County is asking for a 0.1% increase in sales tax on three separate items. That totals a 0.3% sales tax increase, increasing sales tax within the City of Boulder to 9.245%. Each of the tax proposals allocate money to important projects: Countywide Wildfire Mitigation (1A), Rural Emergency Services (1B) and transportation (1C).

But County revenues have risen 27% from 2019 to 2022. The commissioners have not explained why the actions and infrastructure proposed in these three ballot measures cannot be paid for from the $117,000,000 in increased revenues going to the county this year that were not available in 2019.

Important note: All three of these taxes will be permanent, with no termination, ever!

I am voting NO on Ballot Issue 1A, for the reasons stated above. Fire mitigation is important, and should be done. But the commissioners have not explained why it cannot be paid for out of the $117,000,000 in increased revenues that the county is receiving, compared to 2019.

While I assume this will win in a landslide – who (besides Macon and me) will question money for wildfire mitigation? – I lean against this issue for two additional reasons. First, as is typical with county issues, the City of Boulder will provide about half the revenue and get little to nothing in return, as I’m certain that the large majority of mitigation funding will go to lands in unincorporated areas even though our city also needs significant mitigation in our open space (which we pay for).

Second, at a minimum, mitigation funding should be contingent on much stricter building and re-building regulations, at the county and local levels so that we stop making matters even worse.

From Paul Baryames, Boulder County resident (emailed comments to Boulder Beat):

The issues on 1A to me are: Do the citizens of Boulder County fund additional spending on fire mitigation (and) education for the mountains to the west and the plains east of us?

I think that Boulder County is trying to scare me into voting for the tax. I’m not sure that Boulder County has a definitive plan as to how this will all work, which means the money will be wasted.

We are going to have fires, and they will probably be more frequent: Another Marshall fire is not that far down the road. There is almost no tax that could prevent wildfire devastation. In the mountains or in the plains, these fires are part of our lives. Boulder County can not raise enough money to even put a dent in any of the fires that we have seen here in the last 10 years.

We need a bigger and more comprehensive plan that covers everybody in our state. Let’s work on some federal funding, let’s buy the planes and equipment, and let’s pool our money for the greater good of the whole state.

I say No on 1A because it taxes us but does not even get close to solving the problem. This problem is far greater than what $11 million a year in tax dollars can do.

These opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Boulder Beat, its writers, editors or contributors.

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