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Cortez council votes on 2018 election ballot question

First reading of sales tax issue is approved
The Cortez Recreation Center.

During a meeting on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council took the first step toward asking taxpayers to decide the fate of the Recreation Center sales tax.

Council members voted to approve the first reading of a ballot question that would extend the 0.55 percent sales tax that helps fund maintenance at the Center past its expiration date in 2021, while reducing the rate to 0.35 percent. City Manager Shane Hale presented a final draft of the ballot question, with a few changes from the version presented at a public information session in December. The city will take a final vote on the question at its meeting on Jan. 23.

In a workshop before the meeting, Hale said the changes to the ballot question’s wording were made in response to suggestions from the volunteer group Citizens for Recreation and the city’s legal counsel. He said they were intended to make the question easier for voters to understand.

For example, the original version asked whether the city should “continue to collect the sales tax increase” approved in the 2001 election, but the new version asks whether it should continue to collect “a portion of the sales tax,” going on to say the rate will be decreased to 0.35 percent. The new wording also cleans up a few spelling and grammatical errors in the original version.

Hale said he and the city staff had learned from the failure of the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District’s proposed property tax increase in the November election. In the weeks leading up to that election, several residents raised objections to the language of the ballot question.

“With the school district ballot question not passing, we took the initiative to go through, with a fine-toothed comb, our ballot question and say, ‘Are there any ambiguities in here, anything we feel is unclear?’” Hale said.

The city’s question specifies that revenue raised through the continued tax will be used for maintenance and for any capital improvements or additions to the Recreation Center.

Mayor Pro Tem Ty Keel asked whether there was any way to make the ballot question shorter.

“I don’t think it helps the issue when it’s so long and so full of legalese,” he said. “I think it’s detrimental to the cause sometimes.”

But Hale said he didn’t think it would be possible to shorten the question without creating more ambiguities.

During the regular meeting, the council voted unanimously, with member Bob Archibeque absent, to approve the first reading of the ballot question and schedule a final vote for the next meeting.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution scheduling the municipal election for April 3. Along with the ballot question, voters in the election will choose candidates for five council seats, including one made vacant by the death of council member Tim Miller in December. The two council members eligible for re-election, Jill Carlson and Orly Lucero, have announced they plan to run again.

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