Ballot issue number one for the Fort Collins Municipal Elections this year would gradually reduce and eventually eliminate the current 2.25 percent grocery tax. This tax accounts for approximately $6 million in revenue for the city.
Generously, the average college student spends maybe $40 a week on groceries or "unprepared food." The tax on that comes to less than 13 cents a day.
Every college student sees the importance of saving money. Four weeks without a grocery tax is enough for a can of cola, a candy bar or a game of pool. But in the long run the repeal of a grocery tax is bad news for the average college student.
The city's finance committee has developed two possible budget scenarios if the grocery tax were repealed. The following funding cuts were suggested in either of the scenarios, which can be found at www.no-on-1.org, and is also available as a public record through the city manager's office.
The general fund of $736,000 for affordable housing could be completely eliminated. The Affordable Housing Committee provides a liaison for Off-Campus Student Services to help provide inexpensive rental housing for students, according to www.fcgov.com.
Street snow removal could be reduced by $284,000, making it more difficult for students with older vehicles or student bicyclers to get around town.
Programs and hours at city libraries could be reduced or eliminated, freeing up between $476,000 and $1,015,685 that would normally be paid through the grocery tax. This could significantly reduce students' ability to get books through the Prospector interlibrary loan program in a quick amount of time.
In addition, nonprofit organizations such as the Before and After School Enrichment Camp, which happens to employ college students at elementary schools throughout the Fort Collins area, receive funds from the grocery tax.
College students are not the only ones who will suffer.
The city might have to close the Human Rights Office, Youth Activity Center, reduce park maintenance and cut social services support through Larimer County, among other reductions.
Nonprofit organizations such as Catholic Charities Northern, the Crossroads Safehouse, Larimer Center for Mental Health and Volunteers of America are also partially funded by revenue from the grocery tax.
A popular argument for repealing the grocery tax is that by reducing tax revenue for the government, its power is reduced. While this may appeal to politically right-minded individuals, the government will reduce its influence first in areas it sees as nonessential, namely human services and city maintenance.
Another concern with the grocery tax is that it taxes poorer populations the same amount as those higher on the socioeconomic scale, and for food, of all things. Yet the city offers a $40 grocery tax refund for those of certain economic standing.
City Council unanimously defends the grocery tax as necessary. So should the citizens of Fort Collins. It funds the high standard of living Fort Collins offers to its citizens – including students.
Ben Bleckley is a senior English major. His column runs every Monday in the Collegian.