The Eagle River Water and Sanitation District has two questions on the May 6 ballot that both deserve a “yes” vote.
The state of Colorado, through and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, enacted new regulations that limit the discharge of nitrogen and phosphorous into rivers and streams. Those two nutrients stimulate algae growth, which leads to poor aquatic habitat and degraded water quality.
Compliance with these regulations is mandatory and requires extensive improvements to the existing wastewater facilities in Vail, Avon, and Edwards. While there will be a benefit to stream health in Gore Creek and the Eagle River, the question of whether or not to make the improvements is not up for discussion or debate. The district is required to make the improvements required by the state health department.
To be clear, we do not have a choice. (There is always a choice in whether to follow a law or regulation — the choice not to follow such in this instance comes with a price tag of $25,000 per day. The matter has been argued, protested, and fully vetted by the ERWSD and no viable option exists other than to upgrade the system.) The only choice with regard to this matter is how we elect to pay for it: Through sewer rates or property taxes. A vote of “yes” on the May 6 ballot is a vote to pay for this expense through property taxes.
The first ballot question asks for your permission to use a general obligation bond, which has the lowest interest rates and lowest overall cost of the options that are available, to pay for this phase of the upgrades.
The second seeks your permission to pursue grants that will further reduce the expense. Voting “yes” would eliminate the revenue limitations of TABOR, but does not eliminate the section of TABOR that states that districts must have voter approval in advance for any new tax. That provision will remain intact.
If “A” passes, the owner of a home valued at $500,000 will see a net property tax increase of $2.11 on their 2017 property tax bill.
Should the two questions fail to achieve voter approval the district will fund the improvements using service rate increases to fund a revenue bond, a more expensive financing method that will raise monthly service fees in 2017.
A “no” vote will result in more public money being spent to fund the improvements while a “yes” vote will provide the most cost effective funding.
I’m voting “yes” on both.