Voters in Littleton will decide in November whether the city may tax marijuana sales and hotel stays.
The City Council voted June 11 to put the two sales-tax proposals on the Nov. 5 ballot. It is considering asking voters to set the rates at 3 percent, but it will study the issues further to determine the final proposed tax rates.
While the marijuana sales tax was put on the ballot by a unanimous vote, the proposed lodging tax was approved 4-3.
Opponents of the lodging tax said the city might lose future revenue because of additional taxes, while proponents said it was better to enact the tax now rather than wait.
The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights prevents new taxes from being levied in Colorado without the consent of voters.
A ballot proposal to allow the direct election of Littleton's mayor failed to get enough support among the council. The mayor will continue to be appointed by the other council members.
The lodging tax would apply to any hotel stay of less than 30 days within Littleton's city limits. As proposed, the 3 percent rate would be in addition to the city's 3 percent sales tax and would raise about $90,000 a year.
Councilmen Phil Ceranec and Bruce Beckman, along with Mayor Debbie Brinkman, voted against the measure. Ceranec said he didn't think the time was right for another tax and, if passed, it could dissuade large out-of-town groups from staying in Littleton.
Councilman Jerry Valdes, who voted for the measure along with council members Peggy Cole, Jim Taylor and Bruce Stahlman, said any hit to the city's lodging numbers would be temporary.
"If we don't do it now, when?" Valdes asked. "In five years, we'll be wishing we had done this."
While the city has yet to decide if it will allow retail marijuana shops, it will move forward with proposing a sales tax on future retail marijuana sales.
The 3 percent marijuana tax would be added to a proposed 15 percent state excise tax and 10 percent state sales tax on recreational marijuana. The state taxes also must be approved by Colorado voters in November.
Taylor, who's been vocal about passing a city tax on recreational marijuana, said Littleton would see about 15 percent of any state tax collected in the city.
While the council voted unanimously for the ballot proposal, many members voiced their overall opposition to retail marijuana sales within the city.
"My only comment before we do roll call is I'm 150 percent against even retail on this. I will vote to tax it if we end up having to have retail," Brinkman said, "but this by no means should be construed as an approval vote."
The proposed ballot measure to have Littleton voters directly elect a mayor failed by a 4-3 vote of the council. Brinkman, Beckman and Taylor voted for the proposal.
Council members who want the mayor to continue to be selected by the council said the current system promotes a strong sense of camaraderie within the council, and they were concerned that having voters elect a mayor would give that position too much power.
Contact Ramsey Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.