City putting two tax questions on ballot

The City of Yuma is moving forward with two ballot questions regarding tax increases on the November 2 ballot.
Yuma City Council approved two measures during last week’s regular meeting, while turning down a third proposed tax ballot question.

Mayor Ron Swehla and council members Marylu Smith-Dischner, Marc Shay, Tim McClung, Daniel Ebersole, Dan Baucke, and Steve Hoch were in attendance at last week’s meeting.
In relation to the election, the council first unanimously approved a resolution calling for a special election on November 2, 2021, as required by the city charter.
Council members then addressed a ballot issue regarding an excise tax on wholesale transfer of retail marijuana by retail marijuana businesses.
The ballot question is in response to the council approving an ordinance earlier this summer allowing Kind Roots of Wray to locate a marijuana oil processing plant in Yuma. City Attorney Kathryn Sellars does address the implementation of the excise tax when the product is transferred out of the city. However, she told the council she broadened the ballot questions language to include any type of wholesale transfer from any marijuana producing facility, in case the city ever would decide, for example, to allow cultivation facilities within city limits.
The excise tax is set at 5 percent.
The ballot question had $1 million as the top end for collection in the first year. However, council members noted Kind Roots’ Ross King had said it would be $1.2 to $1.4 million, so the motion was made to approve the resolution with the top-end number of $1.4 million in the first year. It passed on a 7-0 vote.
(Kind Roots leaders had said they needed the Yuma facility in operation by October, but there has been no discernible activity to date. The last correspondence from King with the Pioneer indicated Kind Roots still was seeking a suitable location.)
The council also went ahead with putting a sales tax increase on the November ballot. It calls for a 1.5-percent increase, bringing the city’s total sales tax to 4.5 percent. The ballot question puts the top-end collection in the first year at $1.5 million. The resolution was approved on a 6-1 vote, with Baucke the only dissenter.
A resolution to put a lodging tax question on the ballot also came before the council. A lodging tax question has been defeated twice by Yuma electors. Council members said they have decided to table the lodging tax for a future date, then approved a motion to reject the resolution.

Rate study/increases
A water and wastewater cost os service/rate design study was presented by John Krajewski, who has done similar studies in the past for the City of Yuma.
He noted the city has not done a base rate increase for water in several years. Citing rising costs for materials, supplies and other factors, he recommended the city implement a 3.2-percent increase to begin January 2023.
As for the wastewater rate, he recommended a 4 to 5-percent increase on the EQR (Equitable Residential) rate to begin in January 2023. Krajewski also recommended a change in the method for calculating use. The flow-base method would better identify customers that mostly use water for outdoor purposes.
Baucke asked why the city would not break down the increase over two years, rather than doing it all at once. Krajewski said he normally is in favor of that method, but 2022 could serve as a baseline year with the new calculating method before implementing the increase in 2023.

The next step toward the annexation of the city-owned property between Detroit Ave. (Highway 59) and Indian Hills Golf Course, now known as the “Church Annexation,” was taken during last week’s meeting
The resolution, passed on a 7-0 vote, accepts the petition for annexation and sets October 5, 2021 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall as the time and place for public hearing on the requested annexation “of a parcel of unincorporated territory located in Yuma County.”

Representatives of Yuma Unified Making Advances (Y.U.M.A.) made a long presentation to the council.
Kerri Horton explained the organization consists of 10 committee members, including child care providers and interpreters. She said Y.U.M.A. wants to build a relationship with the city, and would be willing to have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the city.
Its focus is on affordable housing, youth, recreation and community equity.
Horton said the group wants to work toward more equitable schools, will be providing training for simultaneous interpretation, and will be providing separate equity workshops for youth and adults.
Y.U.M.A. also has put money toward starting a fund helping youth pay for participating in athletics. It will require a simple application for the youth to receive the money, to pay for fees or equipment such as cleats.
However, much of the discussion centered on housing.
Horton said their research has shown that there are property owners evicting tenants illegally, and the organization wanted to put a stop to that by educating people of their rights.
Councilman Hoch said he was unaware of landlords being such a problem, and noted many have not been paid rent for 18 months since the start of the pandemic. He said that over 50 years, his family has conducted only three evictions, and one involved drugs.
Hoch said he has a different perspective on the Yuma landlords than what he was hearing. Horton said the focus is to protect renters’ rights in an eviction. She said from their research, many own many properties. When pressed for numbers, Hoch was told 13 owners hold more than 150 properties, and one has 50.
“I’d be interested in reading everything you have,” Hoch said.
Alex Ebersole went over a lengthy list of organizations and individuals who could Yuma in regards to formulating an affordable housing plan.
It was noted that even if there was something in place, there still needs to be available contractors to do the work.
That led to more discussion about ways to find such contractors.

Rest of meeting
• The council approved the purchase of a transformer from Western United for $12,626. It’s delivery is 26 weeks out.
• City Manager Scott Moore reported that he and some council members went to the Yuma County Economic Development Corporation meeting in Joes the previous night, noting that communication was the biggest topic of discussion.