Buckley, Stavney spar on taxes | VailDaily.com

Buckley, Stavney spar on taxes

Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyThe audience listens intently as county commissioner candidate Debbie Buckley, right, lays out parts of her ten-point plan for Eagle County Wednesday during a debate with her opponent Jon Stavney, left, at Donovan Pavillion in West Vail.

VAIL, Colorado While county commissioner candidates Jon Stavney and Debbie Buckley agreed that county government needs more transparency and transportation solutions, they differed on almost every other key election issue at a candidate forum this Wednesday.Stavney, a Democrat and former Eagle mayor, said he wants the county to continue providing the services and resources that will allow families and workers to stay in the county.Buckley, a Republican and former Avon Town Council member, tried to draw out the differences in their philosophies.My opponent says the county is on the right track, and I dont agree with that, Buckley said at the forum hosted in Vail by area Rotary Clubs. I believe we need to change course.

When asked if the county should have reduced the mill levy rate last year when assessed values spiked, Buckley said, Absolutely yes.She said she would work to lower property taxes, but would still be committed to spending money to make the county great. She opposed the current county boards spending for what she called pet projects, such as a new county logo, or the early-childhood development program.Stavney said he hesitates to cut county revenues at a time when the growing area is facing so many problems with traffic, housing, child care and other services.The county needs to have a better public discussion about where that money should be spent, but he urged voters to look at how much the county actually takes from all the property taxes.Of the taxes paid on his familys Eagle Ranch home, only $100 of it went to the county.He also pointed out his record as Eagle mayor Im the only commissioner candidate, who when given the opportunity, successfully reduced the mill levy, he said.Avon actually reduced its general property taxes once during Buckleys eight years on the council. Voter approved debt-service taxes went down several years.

Buckley also said the county should get out of the affordable housing business, while Stavney thought the county should do whatever it can do alleviate the areas most pressing concern.The free-market approach that Buckley advocates doesnt work in an area that is land-locked by federal land, Stavney said.Its going to take collaboration and working with businesses, he said.Buckley attacked the countys decisions in housing over the past few years.Stop subsidizing developers like Stratton Flats, she said, referring to an affordable housing neighborhood in which the county invested $4.5 million as an equity partner. We have to stop wasting dollars on studies on affordable housing. Does anyone in this room not think that we need affordable housing?She also suggested increasing affordable rentals and talking to the Colorado Mountain College about becoming a residential campus, which would allow students to live, work and attend school in the community.Stavney was wary of looking to Wolcott for future affordable housing, saying he preferred building in areas where there is already development. Buckley thought Wolcott would be a great site for the hospital and housing for employees.

However, both candidates agreed that the commissioners need to involve the public in decisions and listen to the opinions of residents.Ive sensed a top-down, or partisan-driven leadership in the past decade. There hasnt been public dialogue, Stavney said. I think we need a whole new attitude at the county.Some of the countys public hearings should be held after work hours, he said. Also, the county could create an online land-use map that people can click on specific lots to find out the latest news, he said.Buckley said one of the top complaints shes heard is that the county is not transparent and that voters feel ignored.She wants to see an understandable version of the county budget posted online, and also create a group of residents representing Democrats, Republicans and independents to advise the board on spending issues.Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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