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A cyclist rides past the Manitou Arts Center and a mural of Manitou Springs artist Floyd Tunson in 2016. A proposed art and culture sales tax was defeated by three votes in Tuesday’s election. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Manitou Springs City Council members voted 5-2 Tuesday to place a proposed tax increase to support local arts and cultural projects on the November ballot.

Revenue from the 0.3% increase in the city's sales tax would be allocated to "a special fund subject to appropriation by the City Council," the city’s website reads. That fund would be used to finance operations at the Carnegie Building, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center, Miramont Castle and Hiawatha Gardens.

Remaining proceeds would go toward awards and grants that "foster the arts, culture and heritage" within the city.

If approved by voters this fall, the increase would raise the total sales tax in Manitou Springs to 9.03%.

The council's decision follows a citizen effort to petition a similar question onto the ballot. Proponents gathered 400 signatures, but Mayor Ken Jaray was concerned it would be disqualified because of potential problems with wording and how it was submitted.

Before the vote, Natalie Johnson, director of the Manitou Art Center, persuaded council members to change the proposal so that the tax would last for 25 years instead of 15. The extension would help complete projects, she argued, instead of leaving some partially done.

Council members Bob Todd and Susan Wolbrueck said they voted against the ballot measure because there's been no analysis of the cost of the projects to be funded by the proposed arts tax.

Jaray said he shared that concern, but said an arts tax would be a step in the right direction for supporting the community's arts, history and cultural assets.

If voters approve the increase, the city's share of the overall sales tax would go from 3.6% to 3.9% and would generate about $300,000 annually to be used for arts and cultural projects.

Further south, Fountain’s City Council voted Tuesday to add a question to the ballot about approving a 0.7% sales tax increase for local road projects. The vote passed unanimously 5-0, with two council members absent.

The city needs the revenue to complete transportation projects that voters approved in 2008 when they OK’d the Moving Fountain Forward tax, said Jennifer Herzberg, chairwoman of the Fountain Roadway Focus Group, earlier this month.

Moving Fountain Forward’s 0.75% sales tax funds transit, street maintenance and improvement projects. The 0.35% portion of that tax used for road upgrades, which brings in about $1 million annually, will sunset at the end of the year, Herzberg said.

This November's ballot will ask voters to renew that 0.35% tax for 10 years and double it to 0.7%, bringing the total sales tax for transportation projects to 1.1%.

"Throughout the country, funding for roadway infrastructure is a real challenge," Herzberg said. "That’s certainly true in Fountain."

Similarly, the Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved putting a question on the November ballot giving voters the option to extend the 2C sales tax for road repairs for five more years at a decreased rate of 0.57%. The current rate is 0.62%.

If voters approve of the tax in November, the focus of the road improvements will switch from larger roads to smaller residential streets that have been neglected, said City Council communications specialist Ted Skroback. 

The 2C tax has collected about $50 million annually for road improvements within the city since 2016, according to the city’s website.

Click here for Colorado Springs' OpenBudget spending on the 2C tax.

Multimedia Journalist

Liz is a multimedia journalist who joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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