Mountain News: Jackson has tax envy 

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The town of Jackson is itching to levy what amounts to a sales tax on real estate transactions. Aspen has one. So does Vail. But Wyoming’s state government won’t let Jackson adopt one.

Bob McLaurin, the town administrator for Jackson, met with state officials recently in Cheyenne to make the town’s case. He was well-armed: a letter from Rod Slifer, of Vail.

Slifer was a house painter in Aspen in 1959 when ground was broken for Vail. He became Vail’s first real estate agent and, in later years, served several terms as mayor, as recently as early this year. His name is still on the largest real estate company in Vail.

And what does Slifer say about a real-estate transfer tax? It hasn’t hurt Vail, he said. He suggested Wyoming should let Jackson levy such a tax, if Jackson deems it in its own best interests.

Not everybody in Jackson thinks it’s a swell idea. The Teton Board of Realtors actively opposes a transfer tax, or even giving local governments the option. But even within the ranks of the realty agents, reports the Jackson Hole News & Guide, there are tax supporters.

“Each county should have the opportunity to look at it on a county-by-county basis,” said Michael Pruett, a real estate agent who also sits on the Jackson Planning Commission.

McLaurin — who used to be the Vail town manager — reported Wyoming officials were polite but showed no enthusiasm for his pitch. “There just didn’t seem to be a lot of appetite for it.”

Jackson could levy property and lodging taxes, but has chosen not to.

Vail for many years used its transfer tax to fund open-space purchases or, more recently, parks and maintenance. Lately, it has talked about diverting funds to affordable housing. Aspen uses its money partly for affordable housing.

Both Aspen and Vail transfer taxes are grandfathered in, as Colorado voters as part of the Taxpayers Bill of Right (a.k.a. the Bruce amendment), in 1992 banned adoption of any future transfer taxes.

 

Another casualty in war on terror

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. – It doesn’t take much for the sparks to fly from Tom Long when the subject of the Denver Water Department comes up. He had cause last week when the agency summarily closed the road across Dillon Dam, a shortcut between Frisco and the communities of Dillon and Silverthorne.

The dam, said representatives of Denver Water, was vulnerable to destruction by a terrorist. Other dams operated by the agency in the Colorado Rockies apparently are not, as similar restrictions have not been imposed.

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