Montrose County Losing Out On Thousands, Working to Fix

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Montrose County officials say they could be missing out on hundreds of thousands in sales tax revenues because of a confusing tax collection system. Now they're working with state leaders to change it.

Montrose County officials say they had high hopes for improving county roads and expanding the sheriff's office, after residents passed a sales tax increase in 2007 to do just that.

"We had anticipations through consultants of what we should've expected to come in," said Montrose County Commissioner Gary Ellis.

But one year later, those hopes turned into frustrations.

"We began to realize we did not see those revenues coming in," said Ellis.

Ellis says although they can't calculate the exact amount, studies suggest they're likely missing a big chunk of change.

"We think in Montrose County, it may be several hundred thousand dollars," said Ellis.

So where did all that money go? County officials blame their current sales tax collection system.

Because Montrose County is a statutory county, all sales tax revenues it collects go to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The Department then writes a check back to the county.

Ellis says between working through the Department of Revenue --

"By their own statement, they did have funding and staffing issues to really make sure this collection went through as it should be done," said Ellis.

-- And the fact that several county businesses still aren't quite sure how to collect and report the tax, county residents are reaping its full benefits.

"It could add a significant project," said Ellis. "It could impact, through the Sheriff's Office, maybe an additional deputy or two."

So now, Montrose County has joined forces with several other counties across the state, asking lawmakers to let them collect their sales taxes. County officials argue it eliminates a confusing process and allows them to monitor how much money they should be receiving.

While state leaders weren't sold on that idea, officials say a compromise was made in the form of House Bill 1130. The bill, which recently passed committee, would require the Department of Revenue to make yearly sales tax reports and share more information with the counties.

"It's a small step in the right direction," said Ellis. "It's certainly not everything Montrose County was looking for."

But officials hope it will eventually lead to what they're looking for and restore those high hopes for their counties.

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