Johnstown voters will get to decide one issue and two questions on the April 2020 ballot, allowing them to weigh in on transportation funding, the mayor’s role in a quorum and the town’s ability to pursue municipal broadband.
Incumbent Mayor Gary Lebsack is also running unopposed for a four-year term, as are Johnstown Town Council members Damien Berg, Troy Mellon and Chad Young.
Here’s what Johnstown voters can expect to see on their ballots for the April 7 election, which are being mailed next week:
The first ballot issue asks voters for a 0.5% sales tax hike to fund street and sidewalk maintenance in addition to other transportation projects.
Recent analyses by the town indicate that roughly $18 million in roadway improvements will be needed before 2030.
In 2016, the council introduced a street maintenance fee, collected through residents’ utility bills, to offset the cost of maintaining the town’s roadways.
But with about $350,000 in fees collected annually, the fee is not enough to bridge the maintenance gap as defined by the town
The hike would raise an estimated $2.1 million in its first year, and, if approved, would lead to the immediate elimination of the fee, which currently costs individuals around $4.50 per month.
An estimate by the town also indicates that two-thirds of sales tax revenue comes from out-of-town visitors, who are also responsible for putting wear on Johnstown’s roads.
Johnstown currently has a sales tax of 3%, or three cents on the dollar, on top of 3.7% in state and county sales taxes.
If passed by voters, Ballot Question 1B would amend the town charter to formally recognize the mayor as a member of the town council for the purposes of voting and establishing a quorum.
A quorum is the minimum number of members that must be present for a group to do business.
Johnstown’s charter, which hasn’t been amended since its adoption in 2006, defines the mayor as part of the “entire council” but excludes them from the definition of “councilmember.”
At the same, the number of “councilmembers” is used to establish a quorum and, technically, a majority for many types of votes.
The amendment would clarify that the mayor is a part of council in the same sense as other council members, at least for the purposes of establishing a quorum and voting.
Johnstown voters will also have the ability to set aside the restrictions of a state bill and restore the town’s ability to get involved in offering broadband.
Colorado’s state legislature passed Senate Bill 152 in 2005 to stop municipalities from committing money to broadband improvements, curbing their ability to compete with private broadband companies.
However, the bill also gives residents the right to do away with its restrictions and restore their municipalities’ ability to finance broadband.
Voters in Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland have done just that, and their decisions served as a preamble to the rollout of full municipal broadband programs.
While removing the restrictions of 152 doesn’t necessarily mean Johnstown will be getting its own NextLight or Pulse, it would open the door for the town to start exploring a public broadband option.