Letter to the Editor: Looking at incentives not a new concept

Dear Editor:
Peggy Rector’s letter in last week’s Herald Times was timely in the sense that Tax Incentives for Qualifying Businesses is exactly what the town trustees and mayor look to consider for further support.

The town may soon be considering a resolution to support a legislative initiative presented at several forums including Club20 and the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC). This bill could soon be taken up in the Legislature at the end of this legislative session or in the fall of 2015.
This initiative would allow disadvantaged areas to institute what are referred to as Tax Free Zones.
The Tax Free Zones could help to spur employment, economic development and new businesses in economically distressed areas.
As currently discussed, the tax free zones for qualifying businesses would operate for up to 10 years and not pay sales taxes, property taxes, business taxes, corporate taxes, income taxes for their employees and franchise tax fees.
What constitutes a disadvantaged area could also be a factor for our community. Average median household income in Rangely tend to be in the upper tier as compared to many rural communities in Colorado, creating roadblocks for various funding assistance and grant opportunities. The Tax Free Zone (TFZ) definition of distressed area may not follow the usual criteria allowing us to take advantage of this legislation.
The goal of TFZs is to bring new jobs in industries such as advanced materials and manufacturing, medical device manufacturing, aviation, food sciences/processing, machining, biotech and life sciences and other technology related companies that do not compete with other existing jobs within the state.
Recently, the town trustees have also authorized incentives to developers involved in public infrastructure expansion, sales tax free access to materials and elimination of tap fees and capital investment fees related to development activity.
The Rangely Development Authority and Town Council have supported low-interest loans and no-interest loans over the years to companies bringing services and needed rental housing to our community. These same entities have also supported and provided façade grants for up to $7,500 for Main Street Business District façade improvements and for those businesses wanting to enhance their Main Street appearance.
More recently, the Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Rangely are participating in a grant study initiated by Rio Blanco County’s Economic Development Task Force with members from the county, both towns and chambers to complete an economic development plan to include the Town of Rangely.
Many of our business owners, public representatives and citizens are now being interviewed by Better Cities, a company helping to assess opportunities for our region.
Better Cities has helped to attract new companies and grow existing businesses to create over 8,000 new jobs including hundreds of new jobs in rural areas. They are being hired to help guide and prioritize public investments, secure financing sources, help to redevelop downtown cores and address amenities to improve the quality of life and retain human capital.
CNCC is an integral part of our future and may be the single most important entity to the future growth of our economy. The Town of Rangely supports the college’s efforts to expand its programs and to supply more units of student housing for both married and single students. Pursuing a degree from CNCC becomes more of a reality with suitable and available housing. The town is working to assist the college with funding support for additional housing.
We also look to improve the bike/pedestrian access for students wanting to access downtown by pursuing funding through another grant from GOCO or Colorado Parks and Wildlife and we support CNCCs efforts to raise capital through donations and grant opportunities as well as future construction activity to maintain facilities and infrastructure by providing equipment and manpower to various campus projects.
The Town has also been recently active in supporting the construction of the Veteran’s Memorial with the assistance of a grant from AGNC and vendor donations from Ducey’s Electric, Meeker Sand and Gravel and Mays Concrete. The town provided some in-kind labor and materials for the construction of the memorial and the veterans received many donations from local supporters and vendors for the monument and flag poles erected at the site.
The Parks and Recreation District undertook the improvement of walking paths in and around the memorial, and that made it easier to access and enjoy the park This effort was truly a coalition of supporters for a project that would have otherwise been too costly.
Each year during the month of November, the town provides a substantial sales tax rebate for the residents and visitors to our community with an emphasis in growing incremental sales for our local businesses.
Some might ask, how does Rangely rank when it comes to fees, sales tax and other charges related to doing business within our community? How about you judge for yourself.
1. We have a business license charge of $50./yr. that is prorated throughout the year.
2. Rangely in-town tap fees and capital investment fees for water, gas and sewer for a new business or home amounts to $2,800 with meter costs increasing as the size of the meter increases and based on the actual cost of the meter. Now remember this total is for water, gas and sewer.
3. Tap fees for water only in Meeker for a new business are as follows according to their published fee schedule: 3/4 inch tap – $3,040 and 1 inch tap – $4,600. Meeker Sanitation connection fees are $6,500.
Within the State of Colorado, Meeker’s tap fees are very fair and Rangely’s utility connection fee structure barely registers on the scale of tap fee costs as compared to most communities. In Grand Junction, tap fees are many times that of Rangely’s for both residential and commercial.
If read correctly, Vernal’s fee schedule for water and sewer connections would amount to about $4,100. Craig’s fees for water and sewer connections look to be about $6,660, and Grand Junction’s sewer capital investment fee alone for residential is $4,120, not to mention connection fees for sewer and water. None of these out-of-town examples include gas connection fees.
Let’s talk about property taxes:
The median property tax in Rio Blanco County is $609 per year for a home worth the median value of $193,300. Rio Blanco County collects, on average, 0.32 percent of a property’s assessed fair market value as property tax. Obviously, with the effects of the Gallagher Amendment, commercial properties would bear a higher burden. For instance, a commercial valuation of $150,000 in Rangely would incur an annualized property tax of $4,350.
The average yearly property tax paid by Rio Blanco County residents amounts to about 0.91 percent of their yearly income. Rio Blanco County is ranked 2,628th of the 3,143 counties in the nation for property taxes as a percentage of median income.
Building Permit Fees: This is a sliding scale, but for instance a permit for a $250,000 project in Rangely would incur a permit fee of $2,042 whether commercial or residential.
For the Town of Rangely to begin providing incentives to new and local businesses, it becomes a question of where do these incentives come from and are they going to be sufficient to attract a business from outside of the region.
The county will be investing millions in broadband delivery for both Meeker and Rangely and the unincorporated areas of the county with the project to be completed in 2016 if all goes well. This is just another piece of our ailing telecommunications infrastructure that is to be shored up in order to attract business opportunities and improve the competitiveness of our existing businesses.
The Town of Rangely and the Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with the county and BLM, will be publishing routes for OHV enthusiasts in this year’s Summer Recreation Guide to be distributed throughout our region. The county has spearheaded a grant application in cooperation with the Town of Rangely to promote our trail system through advertising, maps and signage.The grant has been awarded and scheduled funding is yet to be determined.
Rangely is certainly in a more difficult economic picture so it is very important that all of us speak positive about our local businesses and promote them throughout the community. Being a retailer during these cyclical downturns in the oil and gas industry is hard enough without some of the negative and damaging comments being posted on the Internet.
Facebook is often a repository of some unfair non-supportive comments related to some of our local businesses. This kind of verbal attack on local businesses does not advance our community or the business that is the recipient of these ugly and vile comments.
Let’s encourage each other to go against the grain and be a force for positive change as it relates to support for our local businesses, our town, Special Districts and community at large. Choose to support our local businesses by promoting them in a positive supportive attitude, by using their services and purchasing their products.
The Rangely Area Chamber of Commerce established the 365 local shopping campaign that simply asks us to pledge our support to help our businesses survive a difficult economic time. By pulling together as a community, our local businesses have a greater chance of staying alive and the town, chamber and county officials will continue to work together to find solutions to rebuild our economy.
Go to the Chamber of Commerce office at town hall to make your 365 pledge today to unite this great community and to revitalize a great place to live—Rangely!
Frank Huitt
Lisa Hatch
Peter Brixius
Town of Rangely