Littleton council eyes spending priorities, committee for sales tax funds

Passage of 3A to bring in millions for infrastructure spending


Littleton City Council, during a May 24 study session, discussed with city staff priorities for spending millions being brought in from the city's new sales tax, the first in nearly 50 years. 

Voters approved Ballot Issue 3A, a 0.75% tax hike, which equates to an additional 75 cents on every $100 spent at stores and restaurants, during the November election. It passed with nearly 59% of the vote, signaling to council and staff voters' trust in the city's ability to make good on spending promises.

“I think we need it and owe it to the public to start getting this work done," said District 1 Councilmember Patrick Driscoll.

The tax increase had already brought in about $2.2 million in additional funds between January and March. It is projected to bring in a total of $8.7 million by the end of 2022, with city staff estimating it will raise more than $11 million annually for the city's budget, far more than was initially expected. 

Littleton's leaders had been staring down a worst-case scenario earlier last year had the tax increase failed to pass. Without the added revenue, the city's capital projects fund, which pays for infrastructure needs, was slated to run dry by 2025. 

Thanks to the new revenue, staff said more than 70 backlogged projects will be addressed including road maintenance and updates to the city's fleet, which include snow removal and police vehicles. 

Total spending on projects is set to increase year after year, with more than $14 million that could be spent in 2030, according to staff estimates.

Some projects will be more immediate, such as long-awaited relief for the Santa Fe Drive and West Mineral Avenue intersection, one of the city's busiest areas. Staff have proposed building a new road there to help build a road to divert traffic, a project that could cost about $1.9 million, according to city documents, though grant matches would also help cover costs. 

Other projects, such as reconstructing aging city-owned facilities, could take years to finish and cost millions. 

One proposal from city staff breaks up $900,000 in spending over the next eight years, but that could be accelerated if the city pursued local bond options to spend more money in less time and then pay off any acquired debt. 

City staff and council members had also made public transparency a major component of the spending process, promising voters they would form a citizens committee to oversee expenditures should the tax proposal go through. 

Under staff's proposal, the committee would meet once in April and May of each year to review how funds are being spent and deliver a memo June 1 to council. 

But council members differed when it came to what that committee should look like.

Staff had proposed selecting members already sitting on other city committees and boards, but Councilmember At-Large Pam Grove said any 3A committee should include citizens not currently serving the city.

“I would almost advocate for some of the members of this committee to not be on a board or commission," Grove said, adding it could lead to better representation and diverse viewpoints. 

District 1 Councilmember Jerry Valdes said he felt unsure about creating an entirely new committee, which he said “rarely challenges staff that much." 

 “I can see that as almost being a rubber stamp," Valdes said, adding he was more in support of assigning an existing committee, such as transportation, to provide oversight. 

City staff agreed to further review their committee proposal, taking direction from council that a committee should have a diverse make-up of both sitting and not sitting board and committee members.


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