Boulder voters may see a short-term sales tax on the ballot in November to pay for smaller-scale capital projects such as park improvements and public safety radio enhancements.

Some of that money could even go to more quickly restore the city reserves used to pay for flood response and repairs.

Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam proposed the 0.3 percent, three-year sales tax as a way to raise money for "pay-as-you-go" capital needs, rather than the larger bond programs the city has asked voters to approve in the past.

Bond projects are financed with debt over a 20-year period. These projects would be done within the three-year time frame with money raised by the tax during that time.

Each 0.1 percent would raise roughly $2.8 million a year, or $8.4 million over the three-year period.

Brautigam proposed separating the projects into "emergency preparedness," "infrastructure deficiencies" and "place-making" and asking voters to approve three separate 0.1 percent taxes.

Many City Council members said Tuesday they like the idea of a smaller, pay-as-you-go capital program, but they prefer a single ballot measure to pitch to voters, even if the themes are still used to market the projects.

"We're lucky in Boulder to have voters who understand the issues and read the ballot measures, but I like the idea of one measure instead of asking people to vote yes three times, and we can still talk about the themes," Councilman Tim Plass said.


The projects that will be included in a potential ballot measure could change several times between now and August, when the City Council has to vote on final ballot language.

Some of the possible projects identified so far are:

$6 million for police radio replacement, a new incident command vehicle and new fire station alerting equipment.

$2.8 million for a maintenance backlog at police and fire stations.

$2 million for energy efficiency upgrades to city buildings.

$8.5 million for community park improvements.

$4.8 million for park improvements to the Civic Area, including Central Park and the municipal campus.

$7.4 million for improvements to encourage redevelopment of University Hill.

Brautigam said various city departments will be refining their short-term needs to identify projects that can be realistically completed within that time frame.

City Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said voters would likely be receptive to using the tax revenue on flood-related infrastructure improvements, as well as the emergency preparedness items listed.

"I think people do expect something in response to the flood and are keyed up for addressing some emergency issues and infrastructure deficiencies," she said. "I think that is timely."

Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said it may also be appropriate to target some of the money to more quickly restore the city's reserves after paying for flood response.

The city hopes to be reimbursed for 75 percent of those expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and for another 12.5 percent from the state, but that still leaves between $6 million and $10 million that the city will be out.

"We want to refill those reserve funds as quickly as possible," Appelbaum said. "We don't know when the next emergency will come along. I wonder if some of this couldn't go to that. It's not that we couldn't otherwise refill it. I think the public will understand that we got hit with something really unexpected and we did a really good job, and it's really important to refill those reserves as quickly as possible so we remain in the enviable position of being able to very quickly cash fund emergencies."

The City Council is expected to take up the question of the tax measure again at a study session on likely ballot measures in April.