Parker won’t ask voters to repeal grocery tax in November

Toborg says it's still a priority

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While Parker’s mayor discussed running a citizen’s initiative to ask voters to consider repealing the town’s grocery tax, the question will not be on this November’s ballot.

The town clerk’s office said in an email they had not yet received a formal initiative for the repeal Sept. 13. The last day to certify ballot content for the November election was Sept. 9. 

“We have some time to get this done,” said Mayor Jeff Toborg. “It remains a priority for me in support of Parker’s families.”

Toborg added that if voters approved a repeal of the 3% grocery tax, also known as the food for home consumption tax, it wouldn’t be implemented until after a bond on the town’s recreation center is satisfied in 2025. 

A citizen’s initiative could trigger a special election any time outside of the November ballot as well.

In an April town council work session, Toborg told the council he planned to participate in a citizen’s ballot initiative. Several members responded with surprise, stating the majority of the board had not agreed to such a measure.

In Parker’s form of government, the mayor does not vote on council issues, except to break ties. The mayor also facilitates council meeting discussions and acts as the spokesperson of the town.

“You speak for the council and right now a majority of the council does not have that idea,” said Town Councilmember Josh Rivero in the meeting. “And you’re not speaking for council.” 

When pressed on this decision to begin an initiative without being directed to do so by the council, Toborg said he had gotten approval from legal staff.

Town attorney Kristin Hoffman said if Toborg participates in a citizen’s initiative, he will need to make it clear he’s not speaking on behalf of the council and he’s not representing the direction the council.

When asked where the missing revenue would come from if the grocery-tax repeal is approved, Toborg suggested the town could raise its lodging tax or add a tobacco tax but didn’t provide specifics on how much of the lost revenue could be regained.  

During the 2020 election for mayor, Toborg made the repeal of the grocery tax a central element of his campaign. He called it an antiquated tax and said it hurts low-income residents in the town.

Town Finance Director Mary Lou Brown has estimated that the tax provides between $7 million and $10 million annually for the town’s general fund, which is the fund that pays for the police department, roads and parks, along with other expenditures. 

In the April 25 meeting, Toborg said because the town doesn’t separate food for home consumption from other items purchased at a grocery store, the figures for how much revenue comes from the tax aren’t correct. He said he believes he has a more accurate figure but didn’t provide it.

An initiative would need 7,000 signatures from town voters before it could move forward, Toborg said.

grocery tax, parker, politics, jeff toborg

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