Home rule for Granby?
Sky-Hi Daily News
Granby CO Colorado
In April, the Town of Granby plans to ask voters whether they want more flexibility in the way the town is organized and operated.
In the 2010 budget passed last Tuesday, $24,000 is set aside for a mail ballot election with an intent to include a question about starting the process to become home rule – a form of government that is more under the control of local citizens and less under control of state municipal laws.
The only other home rule government in Grand County is Winter Park.
In 2009, Ouray and Hayden became the 99th and 100th Colorado municipalities to adopt home rule.
Home rule towns “didn’t do it as a way to raise more revenue, and they didn’t do it to broaden their tax base. They did it as a way to provide exactly what the name goes by: Home Rule,” said Granby Town Manager Wally Baird, “to be ruled by ‘home,’ by the people who live here, not by the state Legislature.”
This mode of governing has been available in Colorado for longer than a century, according to a “History of Home Rule” report released in September written for the Colorado Municipal League by former CML executive director Kenneth Bueche.
Colorado Springs, Delta, Durango, Grand Junction and Pueblo were the first cities to adopt home rule charters in Colorado. Today, home rule serves more than 93 percent of the municipal population in Colorado, according to the Beuche report.
“Colorado voters statewide have consistently supported municipal home rule by authorizing it in 1902, clarifying and expanding it in 1912 and extending its availability in 1970 to municipalities of all sizes. Moreover, there is no known instance where the local citizens have voted to repeal the home rule status of their municipality,” the report reads.
Home rule for Granby?
Baird said he could not provide specifics how home rule would work in Granby since a charter committee made up of nine Granby citizens would be charged with the task of creating a town charter customized to Granby – a charter ultimately voted on by the people.
A rough example of what could be in that charter would be doing away with the town’s existing use tax and perhaps creating a new tax on goods that is in effect at the point of delivery rather than the point of sale.
Other towns have imposed accommodations taxes that reach mostly the tourism population. Or, another type of detail in becoming a home rule town could be for a more flexible town hall schedule of hours different from the statutory requirements.
A unique degree of Winter Park’s home rule allows for the town to collect a real-estate transfer tax that from a later state decision became unavailable to newer charters.
But home rule doesn’t have to mean higher or more taxation, Baird said.
Yet it could be “exporting the tax liability to tourists,” thereby putting “less of a burden on the citizens themselves.”
A disadvantage of becoming home rule, Baird said, might be that a charter committee “comes up with a charter far more restrictive than what state requirements are, making the town more difficult to operate than what’s under the state system.”
And home rule does not mean a town has carte blanche to make whatever rules it wants, he continued.
“There are still parameters out there a town can’t go beyond,” Baird said. “But those parameters are a lot broader than the statutory parameters that exist. It’s a broader circle you can work within.”
Granby town boards have been discussing a Granby home rule charter for several years, but this is the first year a board has decided to take the next step of putting it before the voters.
If approved in the April 2010 election, voters would next have a chance to vote on a proposed charter for the town. And during the entire process, the public would be invited to provide input, Baird said.
In the meantime, Baird said he plans to glean information from towns such as Winter Park where home rule is well established.
And the town has already obtained a copy of Ouray’s charter. That town’s new charter already has been admired and praised in municipal government circles, according to Baird.
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