Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has two ballot issues on the May 6 ballot (which voters will receive by mail in mid-April) regarding important domestic wastewater system improvements. These improvements will increase the district’s wastewater treatment system capacity and reduce nutrient discharges to our local rivers, which will have positive impacts to the health of Gore Creek and the Eagle and Colorado rivers.
These improvements are mandatory; but how this community pays for them is up to the voters. Because the financial benefits to customers of voting “yes” on both Ballot Issues A and B are significant, I am campaigning with Citizens for Healthy Rivers in favor of these issues.
Ballot Issue A asks voters to approve a new property tax supporting a $25 million general obligation bond issue that will pay for the improvements. If voters do not approve, the district will pay for the improvements through a revenue bond, supported by new rates on customer wastewater bills.
On the other hand, if voters vote “yes” to a property tax, the district will save at least $1.8 million in interest over the 30-year life of the bond and customers will be able to deduct the costs of the improvements from their federal income taxes.
Ballot Issue B asks the voters to release the district from the revenue limitation portion of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. This release will allow the district to accept grants from the State of Colorado that will directly offset the costs of the bond to customers, without having to refund to customers other revenues collected that pay directly for the district’s operations, as would otherwise be required by TABOR.
The district has already received a grant for $1.4 million for these improvements and expects that more state grant funding will be available in the future. Without this release, the district will have to reconsider issuing the debt as a general obligation bond, potentially foregoing the interest rate and personal tax savings to customers, and will not apply for and accept grants if it means refunding other sources of operating revenues.
The consequences of Ballot Issue B not passing are: Customers will pay the full cost of the improvements with no assistance from the state; the costs of system growth will be paid for by existing customers, not the growth that is driving system expansion; and customers will not realize the savings related to paying for improvements through property taxes.
As many of you know, I am a passionate proponent of effective local government. I believe that voters should have the final say whenever a new tax is proposed. The release of the revenue limitations of TABOR in no way takes this right from the electorate.
The district board of directors has thoughtfully crafted a plan to pay for these improvements that minimizes the impact to its customers. I urge you to vote “yes” on both Ballot Issue A and Ballot Issue B: For yourself, your friends and neighbors, and, for our local rivers.