From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
The district’s three-member board of directors voted 2-1 Tuesday to forego any legal challenge to District Judge Lance Timbreza’s ruling last week, saying there was no guarantee they would prevail in an appeal and they didn’t want to subject district businesses and residents to more legal uncertainty.
As a result, the board said it would refund the $7.2 million it’s collected so far — plus interest — to the 40,000 property owners who have been assessed the tax since 2016, but exactly how that will happen is yet to be determined.
That’s partly because the district has already spent about $2.2 million of the money, and isn’t yet sure how much in interest it is obligated to pay.
The district’s board and staff is to spend the next couple of weeks trying to figure all that out, said district manager Tim Ryan.
First, the district staff has to figure out how much in interest it is obligated to pay, and then — because it doesn’t have the cash to cover the entire refund and interest — how it will do so. That could involve taking out a loan, laying off some workers, declaring bankruptcy of the enterprise fund the district formed to finance the stormwater improvements, or a combination of those options.
Under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, any overcollected tax that isn’t refunded within a year requires a 10 percent interest payment along with it, Ryan said.
“The ruling was (the fee) exceeded TABOR, and that it’s an extra tax, so those who paid it are entitled to what they paid plus 10 percent,” he said. “It’s no longer a fee, that’s the conundrum. Now we have to go back to 2016 and 2017. Those are the years that require interest because we’ve held their money for over a year. Everybody else will get their refunds within a year.”
While board member Mary Brophy was adamantly opposed to appealing the decision, and Jim Grisier cast the lone dissenting vote against not going ahead with one, board chairman Cody Davis stood somewhere in the middle.
While he ultimately cast the deciding vote not to appeal, Davis said part of him wanted to because there are aspects to Timbreza’s ruling that he saw as incomplete. The judge ruled that unlike fees charged in other jurisdictions that were for specific purposes, such as Aspen’s grocery bag fee, this fee was for a core function of the district’s mission, to handle drainage needs.