Motion to return Grand Lake municipal fee funds narrowly fails
Grand Lake’s contentious municipal fee, approved last fall by the town’s trustees, was back on the agenda this week as town council members discussed potentially returning the fees already levied by the town.
Monday evening the town board voted four-to-three against a motion by Trustee Tom Goodfellow to fully rescind Grand Lake’s municipal fee and to return funds already received by the town back to the citizens who paid those fees. The vote saw trustee Goodfellow voting in favor of the action along with trustees Cindy Southway and Tom Bruton. Voting against the measure were trustees Phyllis Price, Andy Murphy, Steve Kudron and Mayor Jim Peterson.
The vote came at the end of a public meeting that included public comments and significant discussion of the fee and its history over the past several months. Grand Lake area residents Greg Barnes, Tom Weydert and Mike Tompkins all addressed the board expressing their vehement opposition to the fee.
“I think the money should be returned and fairly quickly,” Barnes said. “I don’t think it is fair to begin with.”
Weydert echoed his sentiments and told the trustees he believes the entire fee should be rescinded. Likewise Tomkins highlighted a series of questions he had regarding how the fee was imposed on citizens and why vacant land owners were not assessed the new fees.
The fee in question, which was approved by the town board as part of their comprehensive 2018 budget, assessed a new charge on “each residential dwelling unit and each commercial facility” within the community according to a letter the town released shortly after passage of the fee. Town officials previously stated local residents could expect to pay roughly $100 under the new paradigm, though several community members including Barnes have said the change resulted in several hundred dollars in additional fees.
Many local citizens also called the legitimacy of the fee into question and highlighted Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights, more commonly known as TABOR, as the basis for their argument. In late January the advocacy group TABOR Committee, sent a letter to the town also questioning the legitimacy of the fee.
In late May the Grand Lake Board voted six-to-one to rescind the fee for the third and fourth quarters of the year but to retain the funds already received by the town in the first and second quarter of 2018. The motion made by Goodfellow Monday evening would have taken the policy shift a step further and would have seen funds received in the first two quarters of the year returned to local residents.
Trustee Andy Murphy also made a motion during the meeting regarding the municipal fee. Murphy moved to have the town retain funds already received from the municipal fee through the end of the year but to refund those fees if actual revenues exceeded actual expenses at the end of the year. Murphy’s motion did not receive a second from the board.
Monday night’s meeting ended with no action taken by the board regarding the municipal fee.