|Loveland's Independent News Source
Loveland, March 25, 2015
Loveland food shoppers can expect to see a 1% drop in their food bill beginning in
November along with another 1% the following year and finally a 3% total drop by 2017
when Loveland's sales tax on food for home consumption is finally phased-out.
The City of Loveland implemented the food tax as part of a more comprehensive sales tax
plan approved by voters in 1984 which went into effect in 1985. Ever since local politicians
from the left have complained the tax is highly regressive (meaning the poor pay a larger
percent of their earnings) and those on the right complained that taxing a necessity of life is
Councilwoman Joan Shaffer was elected in 2013 for a second term using the slogan "the city
shouldn't balance its budget on the backs of people's grocery bills." Professional city staff,
however, jealously protect any revenue source which goes to the city's general fund as
unrestricted post TABOR (Taxpayer's Bill of Rights) which removed local government's
ability to levy such general taxes without a public vote. Voters have become frustrated
over the years as Shaffer and other local politicians change their tune after getting elected.
On February 17, 2015 Councilman Troy Krenning made a motion to repeal Loveland's 3%
tax on groceries but that motion failed 4-3 with Mayor Gutierrez and Council members Joan
Shaffer, Ralph Trenary and Phil Farley voting to retain Loveland's 3% sales tax on all
grocery items. Those voting against the repeal said they needed more time to study the
issue per a suggestion by staff thus the March 24, meeting date was agreed upon to hear a
more comprehensive review of the tax and implications of repealing it.
Privately, Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill has told council members the city's loss in such
a repeal would exceed $7 million annually. However, a staff study found it could be lower
than $5 million resulting in intense negotiations last week until a final estimate of just
under $6 million was presented last night.
Last night Loveland's City Council voted unanimously to adopt a proposal by Councilman
John Fogle to repeal the city's food tax 1% each year for three years. Concerned that a
newly elected council this November could reverse their action (5 seats are up for election
this November on the 9 member board), Councilman Troy Krenning asked for and received
an amendment moving the date of the first 1% reduction forward to November 1, 2015
(days before the election) instead of January 2016.
Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill, in coordination with Mayor Gutierrez and Councilwoman
Shaffer, hoped to thwart the repeal attempts by instead approving a temporary reduction
of only a fraction of a percent. Politically, they believed this gave cover to those who
wanted to say their oppose the tax but don't really favor the repeal.
Longtime Gutierrez supporters and local Democrat activists Ann Huron and failed council
candidate Irene Fortune spoke during public comments against the repeal. Huron
suggested maybe the poor in the community should be given a card exempting them rom
paying the tax instead of repealing it.
Fortune, who ran against Troy Krenning in 2013 to represent Loveland's Ward 1, stated at
an October 2013 candidate's forum when asked about the city's grocery tax,
"The food tax does impact people on a limited income heavily and it does make sense in
this day and age to cut that tax back."
Last night Fortune took a different approach in-line with Mayor Gutierrez's contention that
retired people living on fixed incomes are not really impacted by the tax. Fortune
complained about possible cuts in future services and said cutting the tax was
irresponsible because the services that would need to be cut will hurt the same people like
a reading at the library. Later, Mayor Gutierrez said his wife kept their receipts for the
month and discovered he only paid $7.20 which was a "non-issue" or him. He said, "We
are a typical retired couple" failing to acknowledge the weekly city paid dinners he enjoys
at every council meeting, paid trips where food is reimbursed, lobby lunches like with
McWhinney's Jay Hardy.
Shortly before calling for the vote Councilman Fogle asked for an oath from each of his
colleagues not to change their vote later by reversing the action before all the reductions
“I asked for a commitment from every councilor up here that you will not change….”
Chauncey Taylor than made the pledge but complained, “the community passed the tax
and didn’t repeal it…so I was like saying take Mr. Sarner up on his proposal to make it a
vote…” Taylor is not running for re-election in November. Having sold Johnson’s Corner,
Taylor plans on moving to Hawaii to run a bed & breakfast he owns with a partner and
alluded to it by telling the council, “I will be watching from far, far away…”
Councilman Hugh McKean stated, "It seems like the night of oaths or the night of long
Long pauses occurred during the meeting as Mayor Gutierrez struggled with simple
questions regarding parliamentary procedures as city attorney Tami Yellico researched
answers to questions regarding motions and counter motions. At one point, Yellico
incorrectly advised Fogle he could only withdraw his motion if the person who seconded it,
Councilman Dave Clark, agreed. In fact, the maker of a motion can withdraw his motion
without first seeking permission from the person who seconded that motion.
|Loveland's Council Adopts A Slow
Repeal of City's Grocery Sales Tax
|Cahill's Campaign to Defeat the Repeal
Perhaps the most stunning claim during the
March 24, 2015 special council meeting was
Loveland City Manager Bill Cahill's claim that
staff was "neutral" on the tax and not making any
Shortly after the claim, Councilman Troy
Krenning complained to City Attorney Tami
Yellico that she refused his request to prepare a
possible motion (ordinance) to repeal the tax as
requested in February in preparation of the
Krenning reminded the city attorney that she told
him unless three other councilors made a similar
request she could not (rule of 4). Krenning than
asked whether the ordinance being introduced
by Councilman Fogle had been requested by
three others and Yellico replied it had not. In
fact, Cahill had multiple ordinances prepared that
were not requested by four councilors mostly as
straw man arguments.
One option covered in staff's presentation was
the idea the city isolate only meat, bread and milk
to exempt from taxation while continuing to tax all
other foods. Unpopular with the council, this was
one option Cahill hoped would catch fire thus
undermining a full repeal.
An embarrassed Yellico, looking frequently at
Cahill, stated she could probably be reprimanded
for helping one councilor while refusing to assist
Krenning while Cahill sat quietly saying nothing.
Longtime supporters of Mayor Gutierrez spoke
against any repeal and were well prepared with
facts and statistics prepared by city staff already
presented to council.
Mayor Gutierrez, during staff presentations,
stopped the presentation 5 times asking for them
to repeat their finding that 80% of all Colorado
cities charge a food sales tax. Despite staff's
best efforts and Cahill's claim, they only
succeeded in defeating an immediate repeal but
not a gradual one.
|City Attorney, Tami Yellico, sitting next to City
Manager Bill Cahill makes faces when
questioned by Councilman Troy Krenning
|Staff attempts to link reduction in food sales tax
to critical services despite implementing a
"priority based" budgeting system.