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April 17, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Pass a tax to save cost?

Choose your poison.

If you are served by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, you have a thoroughly counterintuitive decision to make.

Here it is: Vote “yes” to a property tax increase to save money. Yep, you heard that right. Take a tax increase to lower the cost in what you’ll pay for sewer and water service beginning in 2017.

Otherwise, other than a few owners of giant homes, rejecting the tax increase means you’ll pay more through higher monthly bills.

Blame the EPA if you like or the state for basically forcing us to impose tighter water quality standards. The district’s three wastewater treatment plants require upgrades, and that’s expensive.

The ultimate cost of pulling a Florida and refusing in protest to renovate the facilitates has a rather direct path to $25,000 fines for each day the district is out of compliance, litigation and a clear U.S. Supreme Court precedent forcing the district to ... renovate the facilities to standard, along with paying the fines, the lawyers and so on.

AN EASY DECISION

Given all that, adding $2 per $500,000 value to the tax man of your property each year should be an easy decision.

Otherwise, on average, your wastewater fee will go up by $5 each month.

Starting in 2017, this will last for about 30 years until the bond for the job is paid off. The technical differences between a general obligation bond that the tax increase would fund vs. the revenue bond that the rate increase would fund adds up to about $1.8 million in savings for the district for the general obligation route. The tax increase route saves you and saves the district that serves you some money.

The district also will turn this, um, sandwich into an opportunity to make the treatment facilities in Vail, Avon and Edwards more efficient operations with the capacity to handle projected population growth.

By entirely moving poop processing from the Avon plant to the Edwards plant, the district saves on equipment and doesn’t need to get into the expense of buying land in Avon to expand that facility. (Vail doesn’t process “solids.”)

Oh, and odor issues no longer will be even a little problem in Avon.

The aim is to improve water quality by capturing excessive nutrients, namely nitrogen and phosphorous, which harm aquatic health. So Gore Creek and the Eagle River will wind up as cleaner waterways.

The district will be able to trim expenses through grants that help pay for the work with passage of the two ballot issues (A and B) written in their typical legalese and complication to comply with the state constitutional amendment known as TABOR.

Issue B’s shorthand term, de-Brucing, is something most municipal entities in the county had passed in elections in the 1990s and earliest 2000s. It allows government to spend more of the money it collects, most simply put.

What it cannot do is allow government to impose taxes without the voters’ approval. In Colorado, voters always must approve tax increases.

If the district serves you, by now you should have received your ballot in the mail. Part-time residents who own property in the district and live in Colorado are eligible to vote.

The district has sent out about 18,000 ballots. The deadline for return is May 6 for your vote to count.

In a way, this is kind of a civics test. The kneejerk, ignorant decision that comes from not paying even a little bit of attention will cost you more.

Here’s a tax increase that every ardent tea party conservative should embrace if at all thoughtfully hewing to less government cost and more efficiency.

Of course, you need to do a little reading and thinking to reach what becomes the obvious choice.

I’m eager to see the wisdom of crowd in this one. Alas a cynic, I see the very phrase as an oxymoron. Given what’s most popular on TV, how could you not?

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2920.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 17, 2014 09:51PM Published Apr 17, 2014 02:21PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.