It’s a good deal to have about $1.2 million, the equivalent of two years of excess tax revenue from tenants, to refund to residents or keep and spend. Council has asked for guidance on how best to use this windfall raised in 2021 and what is planned for 2022. We urge council to spend the money for new purposes.
The three main options: Refund the money; spend it the way it was originally allocated under the 2021 tenant tax vote measure; or reallocate the money for new purposes. State law requires that excess money be refunded or a vote be taken for the city to keep it and spend it on city services.
We adopt option 3 – new objectives. Before we reveal our wishlist, a gentle reminder to readers of what came before.
Voters narrowly approved a 3.25% renters tax increase in April 2021. The ballot measure allocated 55% to sustainable tourism marketing; 20% for transportation; and 14% for culture and the arts. Advisors can determine how to use the remaining 11%.
So far, the results of the municipal survey clearly indicate what citizens prioritize for “other purposes”. Affordable housing, workforce housing, more arts and transportation funding, parking. Council can deliver what the citizens of Durango say they want and need. Or, at least, sow money and solve pressing problems, and launch projects essential to the future of Durango.
Our list of favorite projects matches the survey results, plus a few new ones.
– Affordable housing. Let’s stop the haemorrhage of exceptional professionals, families and citizens. We will leave the details to the professionals but we need accommodation. Now.
– Workforce housing. Our economy will suffer if we don’t take this demand for skilled and enthusiastic workers seriously.
– Open the library on Sundays. More residents could make better use of our wonderful library with an extra weekend day. If your students are like ours, they are more likely to do their homework on Sunday rather than Saturday. The library would be the place on Sunday.
– Bus service between Aztec and Durango. How about a three-month test to see if this route would benefit New Mexico residents wishing to work in Durango? It could also ease parking.
– Durango Mesa Park, formerly Ewing Mesa. Also, this plan with progress we can see for a bike park, fairgrounds and more to add to what we already have here in Durango.
– Pickleball courts. We are full of riches with two possible sites, the Smith Sports Complex and the Schneider Park. But hey, why choose? Let’s take both. The Smith Sports Complex has the foundations and infrastructure in place. The Schneider Park site is accessible, along the Animas River Trail and scenic. We could accommodate more players, as this sport is gaining ground among young people and seniors.
New goals make for a long ballot. It’s a quick turnaround for the Council to act immediately after the vote. But the Council asks for comments. Likewise, we ask the Council to really hear what citizens are saying.
We understand the seriousness of any decision. We also realize that the easiest route, as recommended by city staff, would be for Council to pursue a utility bill credit as “the best option to meet a 2021 deferred collection refund by December 31, 2022”.
But this excess tenant tax revenue is an opportunity to pause and ask, what do we want Durango to become? How can we get there? It’s enough for us to go a little less far with tourists on days when they seem to outnumber residents. And parking is hard to find.