Boulder County eyes tax hike to make up $56 million flood recovery shortfall

Boulder Creek is seen during flooding in 2013.

Boulder Creek is seen during flooding in 2013.

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder County is considering a sales tax hike to help make up a projected $56 million shortfall in flood recovery money, the county announced Tuesday.

“It is planned that over the next five  years, approximately $217 million will be spent on recovery, with the vast majority being spent on major repairs to public infrastructure,” the county said in a statement. “Over the next five years, Boulder County expects a $56 million shortfall between the amount spent on flood recovery and the amount received in reimbursement.”

Much — but not all — of the recovery work needed after last year’s devastating floods is eligible to be reimbursed by “either federal or state partners,” the county said.  A portion of the projected shortfall will be paid out of the General Fund, but there is not enough money to cover the entire $56 million, officials said.

“The county began 2014 with $60 million in its General Fund fund balance,” officials said. “Within that balance is approximately $30 million which cannot be spent in order to maintain compliance with nationally recognized standards established for annual fund balances.”

At a business meeting on Tuesday, county commissioners directed staff to prepare a Ballot Title for a sales tax issue to raise more money. A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 2 p.m.

“In order to cover the necessary cost of rehabilitation, recovery and resiliency in our communities, Boulder County will need to rely on the public’s help,” Commissioner Elise Jones said. “It is imperative that we move forward quickly with recovery and rebuilding efforts that will leave us an even stronger, more resilient community.”

Boulder County released what it called “a small sample” of the flood recovery projects that have been completed, are underway, or will begin in the near future include:

  • Immediate flood response including search and rescue of more than 800 people during  the flood event;
  • Rental assistance and other immediate emergency assistance for residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the 2013 Flood;
  • Completion of temporary repairs to mountain roads, including James Canyon, Fourmile Canyon, Lefthand Canyon and Longmont Dam Road, in order to safely connect mountain residents to the rest of Boulder County;
  • Permanent repair of the more than 150 miles of public roads damaged and destroyed in the flood, many of which are currently in design and slated for 2015 construction;
  • Repair or replacement of major bridges and culverts, including those on Flagstaff Road, 83rd Street over the Little Thompson, Valmont Road over South Boulder Creek, 61st/63rd Streets over St. Vrain Creek and on Wagon Wheel Gap;
  • Stream restoration work where riparian areas and wildlife habitat have been destroyed;
  • To prevent future flood damage to homes and property along the St. Vrain River, including in the City of Longmont, temporary repairs to breaches have been completed and plans for permanent repairs are being developed; and
  • Removal of more than 35,000 cubic yards of debris from the creeks in order to avoid major flooding during spring runoff and summer rains was completed in May.