VAIL — Voters in the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District will be asked in May for an increase in their property taxes so the district can upgrade its wastewater treatment plants in Vail, Avon and Edwards.
The district’s elected board voted Feb. 27 to put the tax question, as well as a question that would exempt the district from some, but not all, of the restrictions of the state’s constitutional amendment known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. The vote for the resolution was 5 to 1, with board member Debbie Buckley casting the dissenting vote.
Meeting New Regulations
The district is facing roughly $25 million in must-do work in order to meet new state and federal regulations that further limit the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen the wastewater plants put into Gore Creek and the Eagle River. The district has two ways to pay for the work — it can raise rates or increase taxes. If the tax increase fails, then the district will raise rates.
Board members decided on the tax increase because it will save an estimated $1.8 million during the 30-year life of the bonds.
Besides the tax question, the exemption from TABOR requirements is also needed to issue bonds repaid from tax collections. Board attorney Bob Cole said if voters pass that exemption, the amendment’s key element remains — voters must still approve any future tax increases.
It was the TABOR exemptions that prompted Buckley’s “no” vote on the resolution. Buckley said she was uncomfortable removing the taxpayer “protection” in the amendment. Board member Stephen Friedman replied that in his view, the first line of taxpayer protection is electing representatives who are good stewards of public money.
In addition to work on meeting the new environmental standards, the district this year will start work a building expansion and renovation at the Edwards facility. Wastewater manager Siri Roman said that work will help reduce odors coming from the building.