EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - Local school tax increase proponents have spent more than $18,700 making their case to Eagle County voters.
Vail Resorts and East West Partners wrote the largest checks, $5,000 each, to support Ballot Question 3B, according to the latest campaign-finance reports.
"Like our support last year of a similar schools-funding question in Summit County, Vail Resorts is in support of the Eagle (County) schools 3B question because we believe healthy schools create healthy communities," said Kristin Williams, director of mountain public affairs for Vail Resorts. "Our kids and our teachers do not deserve even more decreased funding."
At the other end of that spectrum, 3B opponents spent $588 on yard signs.
"Never have so few infuriated so many by spending so little," said Claudia Alexander, who picked up part of the tab for the opposition signs.
3B supporters, Citizens for Eagle County Schools, handed $1,100 of Vail Resorts' $5,000 right back for advertising and marketing on TV8, the ski company's television station.
Ballots slow to roll in
Supporters of the proposed 3B tax increase, Citizens for Eagle County Schools, spent $200 for a list of who had turned in their ballots and then checked it against the list of school district employees, said Louise Funk, who's spearheading the campaign.
They found that by Friday, 35 percent of the school district staffers had returned their ballots.
"I wanted to know how many ballots had been returned and who was represented. I'm just trying to motivate people to do the right thing," Funk said.
Funk paid for the list herself, she said.
"That's just smart campaigning. Anyone can buy the list of who has turned in their ballots," said Teak Simonton, Eagle County's clerk and recorder.
Voters must sign their ballots in a mail-ballot election, and this year's is completely mail-in. They've had some upset voters, Simonton said, but voter rolls are public.
"Who turned their ballots in is public information," Simonton said. "Who they voted for is certainly not."
Funk said she put together an email encouraging school district staffers to vote and then sent it along to the school district for distribution. School district communications director Brooke Macke sent two emails to the school district's more than 850 employees, reminding them that the election is soon and that just more than one-third of them had voted.
Macke provided both emails at 4:30 p.m. Monday, following an open records request submitted Monday morning. Neither staked out a political position. It would violate campaign laws for a public employee to advocate for or against a ballot question on work time or using office equipment.
"We believe it is important that community members, our employees included, exercise their right to vote," Macke wrote. "This communication served as a reminder that ballots were due on Tuesday evening and was not telling our people how to vote. The district knows that, ultimately, this decision rests in the hands of voters, and we are encouraging our community to participate in this decision."
Mail ballots are growing in popularity among Eagle County voters. Even in years when it's not a mail-ballot election, 65 percent of our voters request mail ballots, Simonton said.
School district employees are not the only ones who are slow to return ballots.
The clerk's office sent out 24,000 ballots and had gotten 7,500 back by midday Monday, the day before the election.
The school district is asking voters for a permanent $6 million annual property tax increase, saying they've seen their funding cut by $9 million over the past two years and have shed 100 jobs.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.