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Despite voter approval, Manitou Springs City Council nixes tax for art funding

Manitou Art Center Cropped
An exhibit on display inside the Manitou Art Center

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Even though the voters of Manitou Springs approved a slight sales tax increase to support local arts organizations, city council members pulled the plug on the funds during a meeting Tuesday night.

Ballot initiative 2D, which called for a 0.3% sales tax increase in Manitou Springs to help fund various arts organizations and, had a final tally of 1035 votes for and 1030 votes against. That's after a recount that was automatically triggered by the original vote.

Despite the narrow passage, city councilmembers voted down the tax increase by a 4-3 vote Tuesday. The council does ultimately have the final say in all tax increases, even if approved by voters. (WATCH the full meeting here.)

Mayor Ken Jaray, who supported the sales tax increase, says he's disappointed with the city council's current decision.

"The fact that it was approved by a majority of our citizens to me indicates that our city council should follow that," Jaray said. "And I'm just extremely disappointed in our city council in how they've chosen at least at this point to move forward."

Councilmember Becky Elder opposes the current language of the ballot, saying she wants more information on how the funds would be distributed. However, Elder says the issue is only being delayed temporarily.

"I am personally just waiting to see what it looks like and how it's going to go down," she said. "We haven't stopped anything. We'll just be looking at how we're going to put this together."

Other councilmembers who voted against passing the ordinance did not respond to comment on their decisions.

Natalie Johnson, the executive director for the Manitou Art Center & Manitou Sprince Creative District, criticized the council and said, "It was very disappointing. I believe it did undermine the election process."

Johnson said that the council has rarely overturned voter-approved tax increases, and she cited one example of the council rejecting a stormwater tax increase only because the city received grant money to help cover the shortfall.

Councilmembers have expressed concern about how the money would be used. Plans presented by the Manitou Springs Creative District proposed splitting the money between Tier 1 and Tier 2 arts organizations.

Councilwoman Elder told KRDO that the issue may be brought up again in January.

For now, Johnson is hopeful the newly elected officials in Manitou Springs will work with her and other nonprofits next year to keep promoting local arts and venues.

"It's just a matter of keeping the energy and momentum and spirit and confidence in the community that the right thing will happen" she said.

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Zachary Aedo

Zach is a reporter for KRDO and Telemundo Surco. Learn more about Zach here.


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