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Manitou Springs voters will be asked to weigh in on two city ballot questions in the Nov. 5 election, including a 0.3% sales tax for arts and culture.

The Manitou Arts, Culture and Heritage (MACH) sales tax would amount to 3 cents on a $10 purchase and generate about $400,000 annually, officials say.

Under the proposal, two-thirds of that money would pay for upgrades at the Carnegie Library, Miramont Castle Museum, historic Hiawatha Gardens building and Manitou art and heritage centers. One-third of that money would fund grants for other local creative and cultural initiatives.

“These programs and projects have needed funding for decades,” Manitou Art Center Executive Director Natalie Johnson said at an election forum Thursday night at Briarhurst Manor.

“Vote for a better future and know that your community has the talent and the energy to get there,” Johnson urged the forum’s attendees. “Know that if we all contribute a little, we can do a lot.”

Manitou’s overall sales tax rate recently fell by 0.3% when one tax, passed more than a decade ago to fund downtown improvements, sunset at the end of 2018, Johnson said. If voters pass the MACH tax, or Ballot Issue 2D, the overall rate would return to about 9%, she said.

City Councilman Bob Todd, an opponent of the MACH tax, argued that Manitou’s sales tax rate is already among the highest in the Pikes Peak region.

If it passes, the measure will have “unintended consequences that will sabotage the best of intentions,” he said during the forum.

Should the new tax be approved, the city will seek voter approval again next year for a bond issue to fund the Carnegie Library project. Asking for the new sales tax now “puts the cart before the horse” because there’s no “definitive bond proposal” yet, Todd said.

The second Manitou Springs ballot question, Issue 2E, would allow the city to retain nearly $183,000 generated by the expired sales tax for downtown improvements.

The revenue is what’s left over after the city repaid all the bonds that funded those projects, Mayor Ken Jaray said.

However, the city could still use that money to maintain the downtown upgrades, he said.

Under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, Manitou Springs must either get the voters’ permission to keep the surplus or return it to taxpayers.

If voters reject Issue 2E, Manitou property owners will get a one-time rebate on their tax bills. For a home valued at $400,000, that rebate would amount to about $75, Jaray said.

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