By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
The meat of the Climate Action Excise Tax ballot question that Carbondale residents are voting on starting March 14 is 36 words long and says the money will be used for the “ … purposes of funding programs to increase energy efficiency, to increase renewable energy use, to reduce emissions from motor vehicles, and to take other steps toward the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and address global warming … .”
Carbondale residents are being asked to pay on average an extra $7-8 on their monthly natural gas and electricity bills, and about $15-$30 for businesses.
Any new tax can be complicated to explain and understand, global warming is plenty complicated to explain and understand, combine them both and there are lots of questions to address.
The Sopris Sun continues its series of articles on the proposed Climate Action Excise Tax with questions to Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot, and Mayor Pro-Tem Allyn Harvey. Bernot answered her questions via e-mail; the Sun interviewed Harvey on the phone.
For Mayor Bernot:
Question: If the tax passes, will the town have to hire additional employees to administer it?
Answer: In discussions over the past two years the BOT (Board of Trustees) has focused around contracting out to a third party. While no additional employees have been contemplated at this time, if the tax passes a future BOT may decide that having in house employee(s) may be the model.
Q: “WHEREAS #5” (on the ballot) says “the town may, by ordinance, identify entities exempt from payment of the Climate Action Tax.” How would that work?
A: This hasn’t been discussed in great length, but those that are tax exempt in other Town measures may be tax exempt here. This was to allow for that possibility/requirement. Staff would know more specifically than I.
Q: The ballot question doesn’t mention any specific programs. How come?
A: This would be a continuation of programs and projects that have been using General Fund monies for over the past eight years, programs discussed as part of the TFAC (Technical and Financial Advisory Committee) process, as well as new programs that will go through a public process.
Q: How will the trustees come up with programs to fund?
A: Through ongoing dialogue at public meetings with our advisory boards, interested public, and commissions following the framework of the 2020 (Energy) plan.
Q: Will there be a RFP (request for proposals) process and how will that work?
A: That would be my desire, but the BOT would have to decide.
Q: Will the tax raise enough money for all the town’s residents, businesses and others to take part in the energy programs?
A: Many residents, property owners and business owners will be able to benefit from these programs and projects. Some projects will be community wide and others will be specific privately owned properties. Everyone will be able to take part, but not all in equal ways. For example: efficiency upgrades to publicly owned buildings and utilities will benefit all residents, while retrofits for a low income qualified home will benefit that specific household.
Q: Will there be an annual review to determine whether the town’s 2020 Energy goals are on course to be met?
A: Yes, and reporting on expenditures, projects and updates will be required as well.
Q: What’s the town’s relationship to the climateactionyes website. Does the town endorse it?
A: It is my understanding that is a single issue website, the Town doesn’t take a position on the website. While individual Trustees may serve on that committee in their private time, the website and group are not a function of the Town or BOT.
For Allyn Harvey
Q: How did the trustees determine the tax needs to raise about $352,000 per year to attain the town’s 2020 Energy goals?
A: “The trustees talked about what’s a reasonable way to raise a useful amount of money without over-burdening anyone’s (utility) bills … we kept energy bills in mind,” Harvey said. “One scenario (had the tax) raising $500,000.”
Q: According to the ballot language, one purpose for the tax is to “ … reduce emissions from motor vehicles.” How is the town going to do that?
A: “The town could upscale its fleet (of vehicles) … install (EV) charging stations … things like that.” Compressed natural gas could also play a role. Harvey said Garfield Clean Energy (GCE) has partnered with Rifle and other towns to install CNG (compressed natural gas) fueling stations for vehicles that are powered by natural gas, but Carbondale doesn’t have one. “There are on-going discussions (with GCE) on that.”
The entire Climate Action Excise Tax ballot question (Ordinance 1) is posted on the town’s website at carbondalegov.org.
Published in The Sopris Sun on March 3, 2016.