Fort Collins resident challenges jail tax ballot language

FORT COLLINS – A Fort Collins resident has filed a petition challenging proposed language in a ballot measure that calls for an extension of the sales and use tax funding jail operations.

Eric Sutherland filed the challenge Friday contending that language in a ballot measure proposing an extension of .15 percent operations portion of the sales and use tax is misleading and would cause confusion among voters.

The Board of Larimer County Commissioners voted last Tuesday to ask voters to approve an extension of a sales and use tax funding jail operations that expires Dec. 31, 2014. The current .2 percent tax will have been in place for 17 years by the end of the year, and it provides about $7.5 million in annual funding for medical, equipment, salaries and other expenses. Larimer County commissioners are asking voters to extend the .15 percent operations portion of the tax.

If the tax is not extended, the county says that some existing programs could be cut, though it’s not clear yet which programs face cuts because details for the upcoming budget due Oct. 15 have not yet been identified.

Sutherland, who is running for a seat on the Board of County Commissioners, says in his petition that the ballot measure “does not use correct or conventional constructions of the English language” and “suffers from inconsistent use of verb tense.”

“The county does not agree the ballot issue as written is either confusing or misleading,” said County Attorney Jeannine Haag in an email.

Sutherland is contesting the ballot measure on 10 different levels, including that the measure does not state that it exempts food and prescription drug purchases from the sales and use tax. Sutherland also disagrees with the county’s assertion that the ballot measure is not a tax increase.

However, Sutherland said he supports the extension of the sales and use tax, which he acknowledged would not be charged in food and prescription drug purchases.

He hopes the Board of County Commissioners will adopt alternative wording that he has proposed.

“Even the most basic pieces of information, such as whether the tax would be charged on food, were absent from the ballot question submitted by the (county commissioners),” Sutherland said.

Election Day is Nov. 4.



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