County attorney John Baxter informed the commissioners during their regular Monday meeting on July 25 that the state department has requested a county draft resolution by Sunday, July 31, that details the sales tax, scope of the project, and revenue bond plan needed to finance the project.
“The problem is we don’t have those numbers yet,” Baxter said at the meeting.
Those numbers include the amount of revenue bonds needed, their price, and interest rates, he said.
County commissioners have put out a request-for-proposals to bonding investment firms for the project and are scheduled to review the submissions on Aug. 8.
Baxter said the county might be able to challenge the Colorado Department of Revenue’s deadline to get the sales tax question on the November ballot and turn in the taxing and financing resolution later.
“You could still pull it off,” he said.
Commissioners also need voter approval to form a broadband authority that would administer the new infrastructure project. The specifics of the authority and its associated ballot question are being formulated.
During Monday’s meeting, commissioners Keenan Ertel and James Lambert discussed the option of holding a special election for the broadband project, sales tax and broadband authority.
“It might be better to do it that way,” Lambert said.
Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell said her office would need to research whether the county can hold a special election for a sales tax. She said special elections typically are held for recall elections. A special election costs between $10,000 and $15,000.
In any case, a ballot question asking voters to opt out of Colorado Senate Bill 152, which prohibits municipalities from creating their own broadband networks, would be on the November ballot, according to commissioners. Opting out of SB 152 would allow the county to build telecommunication infrastructure. Internet services would be provided by private companies.
According to the original plan, the sales tax issue, formation of a broadband authority, and SB 152 would all be on the November ballot.
County commissioners agreed in June to ask voters to approve a sales tax that would finance broadband infrastructure. They’ve said the proposed 1 percent sales tax would fund a fiber-optic broadband utility that would generate $1.7 million to $2 million per year in revenue. The tax would apply to most goods purchased in the county and in Cortez, Mancos and Dolores.
The proposed tax dominated the commissioners’ first quarterly meeting on Monday, July 18.
The evening meeting was intended to give residents time to discuss issues with commissioners after typical working hours.
Commissioners gave a brief rundown of details about the sales tax, but said more details were coming soon. Commissioner Keenan Ertel said the tax would sunset after a certain period of time, and the $1.5 million to $2 million generated per year would be earmarked to fund high-speed internet infrastructure and pay off the project’s debt service.