Our View: Fees are like taxes, except without a vote of the people

Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

There’s nothing flashy or exciting about upgrading a stormwater system, but it is one of those essential municipal obligations that residents expect their city government to take care of when necessity dictates it.

And so it is that the city of Steamboat Springs finds itself in need of potentially substantial upgrades to an aging stormwater drainage system. But while a yet-to-be-completed infrastructure study will determine the scope of the improvements, city officials already have floated a proposal for how the city might afford such a significant capital project. Suffice it to say we’ve yet to warm to the idea.

Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark tentatively has proposed a new fee to be assessed to Steamboat Springs property owners to pay for the project. The amount of any potential fee would be dependent upon the cost of the overall project and how long the city will take to complete it.

A fee is like a tax, with the important distinction that taxpayers wouldn’t first have to support it via a vote of the people. In other words, assessing a fee on taxpayers is a tool of convenience for municipalities that would rather not chance a “no” vote from residents on a tax question at the ballot box.

We can understand why cities like Steamboat would seek the path of least resistance to funding a major capital project. Replacing culverts, bridges and drainpipes is nuts-and-bolts infrastructure work with none of the glamour of, say, adding acres of usable open space or building a new community facility. But just because a city can impose a fee doesn’t mean it should, and we’re not swayed in the least by the argument that many other municipalities, particularly along the Front Range, use an assessed fee system to pay for their own stormwater projects.

If there is a real need for major stormwater system upgrades, then the city needs to go before its residents and make that case. Demonstrate that all reasonable funding methods have been explored — including use of the city’s apparently expendable reserves — and that the city otherwise has been fiscally prudent with taxpayer dollars. Steamboat Springs is a community that has proven time and again willing to tax itself for items deemed to be of significant value to the health of the city. If the stormwater upgrades meet that standard, and if the city can show that to voters, then a property tax is a reasonable and realistic means of paying for the project.

We’ll give Hinsvark and the city the benefit of the doubt in that the infrastructure study hasn’t been completed and no decisions have been made on either the extent of the stormwater system improvements or how they will be paid for. But we strongly suggest that city officials and the Steamboat Springs City Council give careful thought before moving forward with any proposal that further would burden residents without first giving them a say in the matter.

Community comments

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(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

Excellent argument.

Fees are like taxes, except without a vote of the people.

Mildly surprised that the editorial didn't mention that is also the exact same issue facing Town of Oak Creek.

Posted 20 November 2012, 7:02 p.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

I'm mildly surprised that Scott didn't admit that what I said months ago is now apparent:
Apart from adding fees for what WILL be major infrastructure improvements the City of Steamboat is just as broke as most others.
Why?
Precisely because they burned through the $$$$ on the (as the Pilot put it) "glamourous [things such as] open space or community facilities" and now have NO CASH for critical infrastructure upgrades.
Copy this scenario to most every municipality from New York to Los Angeles and do the math.
WE ARE BROKE

While I agree with the concept of the title: "Fees are like taxes without a vote." I would also argue that taxes are like taxes without a vote when you dilute the taxpayers votes by including voters who pay no taxes.

Posted 20 November 2012, 9:20 p.m. Suggest removal

(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

City is not broke because they have lots of revenues and relatively a small amount of debt and other required spending. Being forced to cut back on the champagne and caviar is not the same as being broke.

Well, I suppose we could only allow pot users to vote on pot laws, immigrants to vote on immigration issues, science majors to vote on environmental issues, gays to vote on same sex marriage laws and so on, but generally a democracy does not exclude voters based upon subject matter.

Posted 21 November 2012, 1:59 a.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

No, that's not what I mean: letting pot users vote on pot issues, immigrants on immigration issues and so on.
That's completely backwards from what I said.
You have a slick way or re-arranging arguments.

What I meant was that when people who pay little or no taxes get the same amount of vote as those who pay massive amounts of taxes it dilutes the vote in an improper way.

For instance:
Take a guy who owns 3 local businesses and a large home and has 17 employees. He pays God only knows how much local taxes. Property taxes, sales taxes, permits, liscenses,etc, etc.
His 17 employees hardly pay as much between all of them, yet they get 17 times the vote that he does.
On what planet is that right?
The left loves to quack about "fairness" all the time, but this is a clear example of unfairness.
What would be fair is for everyone to get one vote, and then everyone gets an additional vote for every $1,000 or $10,000 or $20,000 they pay in taxes.

That's how corporations are run. If you own 100,000 shares of IBM and I oiwn 1,000 shares then you get 100,000 "votes" at the shareholder meeting and I get 1,000 "votes".
I can't come along with my paultry 1,000 votes and have the same influence on the company as you with your 100,000 shares.
Why not? Simplke and fair answer: You have more invested, therefore you should have more say.
DITTO FOR GPOVERNMENT.

Posted 21 November 2012, 8:50 a.m. Suggest removal

(Anonymous) chimpac says...

If voters got one vote for each $1000 they payed in taxes it would save our country from mob rule.
If we continue the direction we are going we will be like Greece,Spain and so many other countries that have gone broke.
Oboma won the election because of the freebees he promised to the masses of people that do not have a clue what they are voting for.

What would be the possibility of making this change? Is it even possible?

Posted 6 December 2012, 10:40 a.m. Suggest removal

(Harvey Lyon) stirrinuptrouble says...

Fees are generally worse than taxes. Often "taxes" are deductable from one's federal income tax meanng the federal government sponsors whatever the tax is for at whatever your tax rate is.

This is an interesting concept because, as part of the discussion on the deficit, it has been pointed out that "blue states" genererally have significantly more "tax deductable taxes" and less fees while "red states" have more fees and less taxes which ultimately results in a higher federal subsidy of blue states over red states. In other words, blue states find themselves subsidizing red states projects.

Posted 21 November 2012, 9:03 a.m. Suggest removal

(rhys jones) highwaystar says...

"As of May 2011 the largest single holder of U.S. government debt was China, with 26 percent of all foreign-held U.S. Treasury securities (8% of total U.S. public debt)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_S...

The Fed intends to devalue the dollar by at least 33% over the next 20 years.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/charleska...

This means that our creditors will not receive full value for that they loaned us, or interest. They would therefore be justified in demanding even higher interest rates.

Following your logic, Mark, should then China, Japan, even Brazil and Russia, be allowed to vote in our elections? They have as much as stake as we do.

P.J. O'Rourke once said "Nothing beats Communism like a Quarter Pounder." Seems the Commies turned that one around on us, eh? You blame social programs; I blame endless wars, and sending the jobs to China and throughout the Far East, where people value a buck, and every factory worker doesn't have to make enough to send his nine kids to Yale. Who created the circumstances for THAT to happen? (Unions, (Fed-caused) inflation, "globalization," the World Bank,...)

We've been riding the wave of deficit spending WAY too long, and the bill will soon come due.

Funny how the "Federal" Reserve stands to profit no matter what. Think they care about either one of us, Mark? You spoke recently about fleeing the madness to Costa Rica -- where British will soon be the prominent dialect.

Locally, we need to brush up on our Mandarin.

Posted 21 November 2012, 10:05 a.m. Suggest removal

(rhys jones) highwaystar says...

Sorry 'bout the digression folks -- I can be a little obtuse myself -- so I'll put away my soapbox, and ask Scott to explain to me again, how these fees escape the regulation of both TABOR and the PUC?

I had a landlord not long ago, whose stories of fee hikes sounded almost criminal.

And I will grant Mark a point: Since I own nothing I pay no property taxes, so I should have no say in how your money is misappropriated.

Posted 21 November 2012, 1:02 p.m. Suggest removal

(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

For instance, take the owner of a mmj dispensary. He has tons of money invested and handles far more mj than you or me. So why should your or my vote be allowed to dilute his vote on mj issues?

Point is that in a democracy that people do not get extra votes for being extra affected by an issue.

Dispensary owner does not get to decide local mj laws because he has the most invested and the biggest mmj business. He gets as much of a vote as ignorant fear mongers. That is not "unfair". That is the fundamental basis of democracy. The dispensary owner doesn't get the control the issue by having extra voting power, but can run a campaign to educate and persuade the voting public.

Posted 21 November 2012, 1:20 p.m. Suggest removal

(Fred Duckels) fredduckels says...

Glenwood has needed a bypass for decades, but letting every person in town have a veto on the undertaking has rendered them fools for their lack of action. Now if it was a water or sanitation problem the state would step in and mandate action which is often the only way things get done. Getting politics involved can be helpful but it can also lead to total chaos.

Posted 21 November 2012, 4:40 p.m. Suggest removal

(Fred Duckels) fredduckels says...

Glenwood's lack of leadership has CDOT proposing a truck thouroughfare thru downtown leaving most of the business with an undesirable access proplem. This could be an impetus for Steamboat as total indecision can have downside.

Posted 21 November 2012, 5:37 p.m. Suggest removal

(jerry carlton) jlc says...

Scott Wedel I generally try to ignore your posts but once in a while you irritate me so much I am compelled to respond. Lets examine the "ignorant fear mongers" which I happen to be one of. Some people have a sense of morality that is derived from the Holy Bible which you may have read but show no sign of believing in. I do not belive that people should ingest hot gasses into their lungs, dump mind altering chemicals into their stomaches or veins or ride motorcycles without helments because ultimately other peoiple end up paying for their misadventures. Now in the interest of full disclosure and honesty, I do like to drink a few beers. My life would have been better served had I never drank the first one. Now to the "ignorant" part. I will toot my own horn. I am aware that I am not on your intellectual level however I did survive college math thru 2 or 3 Algebra courses, Differential equations, and Probability and Statistics. My major was Industrial Enginerring and my minor was Math. I worked for 45 years, saved my money, and now own a home in Steamboat Springs, and in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, both paid for in cash. Unless SS and the Federal Government collapse, I will never work again. You may consider me ignorant but I consider myself a believer in Jesus Christ. Have a good evening and feed the birds.

Posted 21 November 2012, 6:29 p.m. Suggest removal

(Scott Wedel) Scott_Wedel says...

Jerry,
The "ignorant fear mongers" comment was not meant to dismiss all opponents of mj.

It was in the context of whose votes should count and whom should not be allowed to vote. So was in the contrast of those arguably should be considered more knowledgeable and those whom should be ignored. It was not meant to be a credible discussion on mj politics. And so the ignorant fear mongers was referring to what could be considered the arguably least worthy of the anti-pot voter, not all anti-pot voters.

Note that I was using this as an example of the absurdity of not letting everyone vote. So I was arguing that even ignorant fear mongers get as much of a vote as an expert in a democracy.

Anyway, I am sorry I offended you. Not my intent to offend anyone.

Posted 21 November 2012, 8:32 p.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

So many bee hives and so many rocks.
Hee hee hee.
I love it.

Rhys,
China is not a taxpayer. They are a lender.
So your logic of giving them a vote ends there.

However, I find it interesting that your tone suggests you would rather them have a vote than for a wealthy American paying hundreds of times as much as you or I to have more of a vote than you... just saying.

I don't "blame" social programs or endless wars. Both social programs AND wars have there place and BOTH can and are being abused.
I "blame" mis-management, which is a predictable result of those with no vested interest having too much say in the operation of any enterprise... especially a $10 billion / day enterprise like Uncle Scam's.

If someone of voting age has no money they probably have no management skills. Why do we want them running a $10 billion/ day company??? Who thinks that will go well???

Scott,
First, if leftists had their way the mmj owner COULD NOT "run a campaign... to persuade the voting public" because you clowns want to outlaw campaign spending.

Second, you still are, I think deliberately, clouding and misrepresenting the issue I raised.
Let me try to clarify once more...
It is not a matter of what business you are in or where your personal expertise lies which should give extra weight to your vote.
What should entitle someone to more say in government is how much they pay for that government.

I think we all know that "even [the] ignorant... get as much vote an an expert..."
The question was not IF this is the case, of course it is. But is it logical, and what is the predictable outcome?
My contention is that it IS NOT logical and that we are experiencing the predictable outcome... out of control spending on everything from social issues to endless wars, all of which is bankrupting us. Just like putting the janitor in charge of IBM would bankrupt it.

Posted 21 November 2012, 10:12 p.m. Suggest removal

(rhys jones) highwaystar says...

Sorry to divert this little chat... but it seemed like the likeliest place to enclose this photograph, of a little girl shot by insurgents... they killed the rest of her family. Now CMSgt John Gebhardt is the only person she'll stop crying for, so this is where he spends his nights:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbi...

Just a little reminder, how small and petty my world really is -- while making me glad to be part of the human race. It doesn't matter your politics, this is touching.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

Posted 22 November 2012, 8:35 a.m. Suggest removal

(mark hartless) markhartless says...

What do you expect from "a child of priviledge", a racist, "an ignorant fear-monger"?

Posted 27 November 2012, 2:24 p.m. Suggest removal

(rhys jones) highwaystar says...

I was gonna warn ya, Ryan -- let a sleeping dog lie!! Be glad the bite wasn't worse.

Posted 27 November 2012, 3:38 p.m. Suggest removal

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