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What’s Up with These Petitions?

Community Questions about the URA and Food Tax Petitions

Answered by George Garklavs and Let Us Vote

Curated by The Loveland Voice

July 22, 2023


Q and A: Let’s Get Into It!

The Loveland Voice (TLV): What exactly do the petitions say?


George Garklavs (GG): Here are links to the two petitions:


TLV: Why did you decide to get involved with this effort?


GG: I felt like many elected Loveland City Councilors were not receptive or interested in

finding out what their constituents wanted, needed, hoped for, etc. They seemed to be

rather narrowly focused on personally satisfying agendas, and not considering the big

picture needed for local governance.


I am a firm believer in the need for government (elected officials and civil servants) to

have a broad view of what constitutes “the common good.” Trying to get more than

three thousand signatures so that issues could be placed on a ballot for all citizens to

vote on 1) seemed like a good challenge, 2) might get enough Lovelanders to think

about getting more involved in local issues, and 3) might make some on Loveland City

Council think more about citizen input and involvement.


TLV: Why do these issues matter to you? (URA, food tax)


GG: There are roughly 80,000 citizens in Loveland. They ALL eat. Inflation has made

things more expensive for everyone. A tax on food is regressive, with those less able to

afford basic needs being hit the hardest. It felt like a good time to see if the city could

re-prioritize some spending to help Lovelanders in this economic time.


The tax increment financing (TIF) part of local Urban Renewal Authority (URA) diverts

the incremental increase in property tax from city operating funds to defray costs for a

development. In truly blighted areas this could make sense, but this form of tax

diversion has become a financing tool for non-blighted development.


This takes away funds for the city’s operating expenses which MUST be made up by

other sources - either cuts in some programs, or raising taxes for everyone outside of

the URA. Whereas some on the city council have touted the notion that local

development would generate more income than the taxes diverted, there has been

ZERO proof or substantiation of how this would occur. It comes off as an arm waving

fairy tale that should simply be accepted as presented.


TLV: Where are you at? Numbers wise?


GG: Close. Closer to enough for Food Tax; almost as close for URA. We’re looking to

achieve our goals in the next several weeks.


TLV: What feedback have you received working in the community?


GG: Mostly very positive. The repeal of the food tax resonates with all age groups and

political inclinations. The URA issue is one that many people are not familiar with

regarding its intricacies and long term effects. Those that ask is this like the recent

South Centerra project have primarily been willing to sign the petition. There are some

that wonder how the tax shortfall will be made up. And some (not many) think it’s a bad

idea.


TLV: Have you received any specific feedback from community members that was

negative, or positive, while speaking with the community?


GG: Negative feedback seemed to repeat the same things that some on city council

have voiced as what’s wrong with pursuing this initiative. Regarding food tax, some

question about how to replace that revenue stream... but there’s overwhelming

agreement that we should not tax a basic necessity, such as food.


TLV: How do you respond to messaging from the City, as far as what you know?


GG: We try not to get into the weeds with quibbling about numbers, unless something

very unreasonable is presented. Our message is that people have a right and duty to

tell elected officials what they want from their government. Their voices should be

heard, not suppressed. The issues can be settled using the power of the vote. The

petition is our effort to bring that vote to the people.


TLV: Do you feel the City’s numbers are accurate? Why or why not?


GG: Inasmuch as we do not do forensic audits of city financial records we cannot judge

their accuracy. But how they are presented (what context is implied in the city’s

messaging) can be questionable. At the last city council meeting Brian Waldes (CFO)

portrayed the $6.9 million surplus as being untouchable because it was classified as an

“unspent allocation” intended for future capital projects. All organizations that manage

their finances create budgets and “allocate” funds to various projects and/or

departments. Those “allocations” are not set in stone. They’re simply guides that help

track and plan expenditures and income. Every organization re-allocates funds to meet

shortages, overages, and changes in priorities. Mr. Waldes’ answer to Councilor

Samson’s question was less than forthright, in my opinion.


TLV: What do you want Lovelanders to know about what it means to them to sign

the petition?


GG: It simply means that they are participating in their local government by voicing their

opinion, that they want a chance to have a say in how things are run. It’s about getting

issues on the ballot so that citizen voices can be heard.


TLV: Do you feel the library is at risk?


GG: No. The city used the same sky is falling scare tactic when they tried to increase

taxes several years ago. There was also a hint that your house is at greater risk of

burning down if new fire stations can’t be built.


TLV: Have city staff been comfortable signing the petition without fear of reprisal

or punishment, in your experience?


GG: Having worked in Federal service I’ll say this. At all levels, government employees

are prohibited from engaging in any political activity while on the job. I’ve had yearly

staff meetings to remind employees of this rule. Once not on the job, government

employees are free to engage in any activity they wish. City employees cannot sign

petitions while working.


TLV: What is your deadline?


GG: Because of the upcoming election date all petition packets have to be turned in to

the City Clerk by August 9, 2023.


TLV: Where can people find you?


GG: On Facebook and the “Let Us Vote” web page. Sunday Farmer’s Market at the old

fairgrounds. Frequently mornings and evenings at the Chilson Center, and mornings at

the Library.


Questions from the Community:

Doug Luithly: How does the national target food percentage compare to the local

target food percentage? The national was used by the city finance director as a

basis for all his financial figures. I suspect that the local target would have a far

lower percentage.


GG: I can’t estimate that. We welcome your thoughts.


TLV: Here is the one pager being distributed by the City about the impact of eliminating

the tax on food for home consumption.


Anne Blair: How will the 3% sales tax loss affect us? Will it be replaced with

another tax? Or, will we lose services?


That loss of tax revenue can be dealt with in several ways. My initial reaction is to say

that just like families that have budgets that attempt to balance income and

expenditures, cities do the same. When a family’s income decreases it is common to

see an adjustment in spending. It helps to have priorities to help in that decision.


Imagine having to choose between paying for a child’s medical expenses or buying a

boat. Or choosing between repairing a car or taking a trip to Disney World. Cities can

look at surpluses (Loveland has them) and lower-priority spending. Though the recent

increase in the city’s share of property taxes would not likely cover the tax loss, it would

make up a large part of it. Fewer incentives to businesses would help. I cannot see the

voters approving a tax hike. Also, careful budgeting would likely not change the level of

services.


Blair: Will city employees like their jobs if the grocery tax elimination passes?


GG: I don’t see the connection. Job satisfaction is seldom related to the various sources

of tax revenue. Will city employees “LOSE” their jobs? Unlikely.


Blair: Will there be no tax at restaurants?


GG: The petition only proposes to eliminate the tax on groceries (food for home

consumption). The state of Colorado already has a list that is used to identify taxable

and non-taxable food stuffs.


Diane McInturff: Is this just food to be prepared to eat, rather than deli items or

other convenience food? How is this separated at stores?


GG: As mentioned in the previous question Loveland would (should) use the state

prepared list of taxable/non-taxable food stuffs. I believe that deli items would be

non-taxable, whereas dining out at restaurants would be fully taxed.


Jen Castenda: How does elimination of food tax for home consumption truly

impact families?


It is generally agreed that taxing food for home consumption is a regressive tax, in that it

imposes a tax on a greater percentage of income for those in lower income brackets.

We cannot predict the exact amount that any family will save by eliminating the tax on

food. But as an example, if a family of 4 spends $1,250 a month on food they would pay

$450 a year in tax. Eliminating this tax would put that money in their pocketbook. Not all

families have 4 people, and some will spend more (and some less) than this estimate.

But the most likely result will be that money will quickly go back into the local economy.


Casteneda: Will residents benefit overall by eliminating food tax? If so, how?


Those who have been hit hardest by inflation in recent years will see the most

immediate and greatest benefit to this proposal. With prudent budgetary analysis the

city should be able to absorb this tax reduction with minimal impact on the services

delivered to Loveland’s citizens. Citizens would see that the city is adjusting its budget

just like they do when inflation makes life more expensive. The city would score high

marks for doing something to ease the financial burden on Lovelanders caused by

recent inflationary price hikes.



Editor’s note: George Garklavs is the Associate Editor of The Loveland Voice. For this

series of questions and answers, he is representing his work with Let Us Vote, not The

Loveland Voice. Originating questions were generated from Jessica Schneider, Editor of

The Loveland Voice, as a matter of curiosity, understanding this is an issue of great

public interest. We also invited community members to submit their own questions.

Jessica Schneider is not a petition gatherer. For further updates, please follow and/or

message Let Us Vote on Facebook.

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