Officials consider allowing pot sales in Brighton

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By Andrea Tritschler

City council members could decide to allow marijuana sales in Brighton in the future as a way to generate additional tax revenue.

Current Brighton tax revenues don’t generate enough money to keep up with the estimated annual $36 million it takes to keep the city running, according to Clint Blackhurst, acting city manager.

City council members banned retail marijuana shops in June 2013.

Officials have taken steps to reduce the city’s internal operating costs by limiting hiring in 2018. They also will not allow any cost-of-living salary increases this year, Blackhurst said.

“There are two areas (where) the city has challenges,” Blackhurst said. “No. 1 is revenue. Every single piece of revenue is important.”

Officials want to be realistic about what residents would pay in taxes.

“Our citizens have higher and higher expectations. They want more services and better services,” Blackhurst said.

Councilwoman Mary Ellen Pollack recently suggested that the city “get with the times” and look at a marijuana sales tax as another potential source of revenue. Communities across Colorado have benefited from marijuana sales, including nearby Northglenn, which in 2015 generated $730,000 in sales tax revenue from a few marijuana stores. The money went toward water purchases and infrastructure improvements.

In Adams County, the $500,000 brought in from a marijuana sales tax went to high school scholarships.

“It does bring in revenue, it is legal and I think if we are having finance issue, that’s one way to bring in revenue,” Pollack said.

City workers are putting together potential tax revenue numbers, according to Blackhurst. Marijuana sales were projected to be more than $1 billion in 2016, up from 2015 sales of $996 million, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Around $1.1 million remains in the city’s reserve fund along with more than $800,000 in an oil and gas reserve fund. Officials also expect to receive $2.3 million from mineral leases with Great Western Oil and Gas Co. and other revenue before the year is over.