Eagle County voters to decide tax questions
EAGLE COUNTY – This is a relatively new local development, but most people have already voted by the time election day rolls around.
Still, there are people who like going to a polling place on election day, or just left a completed ballot under the grocery list. Some folks haven’t yet made up their minds on the handful of questions on this year’s Eagle County ballot.
With those folks in mind, here’s a review of what local voters will decide:
• Proposition 103 would increase the state’s sales tax rate from 2.9 to 3 percent, and the state income tax rate from 4.63 to 5 percent. The new rates would be effective for the next five years, beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
The ballot measure specifies that the money raised – an estimated $536.1 million the first full year, and a similar amount thereafter – can “be spent only to fund public education from preschool through twelfth grade and public postsecondary education.”
Opponents call the proposal one of the biggest tax increases of the last several years. Supporters say the measure would restore to state schools some of the money lost through cuts the last few years.
While many statewide ballot questions break down along party lines, Proposition 103 has been somewhat different. Republicans are virtually unanimous in their opposition, but few of the state’s high-profile Democrats have taken a public position. The exception is the proposal’s sponsor, state Sen. Rollie Heath of Boulder.
Everyone in the county votes on this one.
• Everyone in the county will also vote for four members of the Colorado Mountain College board of directors. Like county commissioner candidates, candidates represent specific districts, but everyone in the multi-county college district votes for all the candidates. Here’s who’s running, from which district:
District 2 (Glenwood Springs/Carbondale area): Kathy Goudy and Stan Orr.
District 4 (Summit County): Richard Hague and Robert Taylor.
District 5 (Routt County): Ken Brenner and John Fielding.
District 6 (Lake County): Pat Chlouber and Wes Duran.
Profiles of all these candidates can be found at http://www.vaildaily.com.
• Eagle County School District: Ballot issue 3B is a request for about $6 million per year in new taxes from the Eagle County School District. District officials say the money is needed to offset state spending cuts, and to make up for a coming drop in local property tax revenues.
The ballot language states the money will be used to retain teachers, “minimize reductions in extracurricular activities, arts and athletics, as well as replacing buses and computers.” The ballot also states the money could be used for maintaining buildings and grounds.
District officials went ahead with the ballot question earlier this year despite a survey that indicated support from just more than 40 percent of those who responded. Officials say they’ve already cut millions of dollars and numerous positions over the past couple of years. Opponents say this is exactly the wrong time to ask already-strapped home and commercial property owners for more money.
According to district figures the tax increase will about $95 per year on a home with an assessed value of $500,000.
• Eagle County School District: School Board election. Tessa Kirchner, Kate Cocchiarella, Carrie Benway, Jeanne McQueeney and Thomas Johnson are all running unopposed.
• District attorney term limits: Colorado law limits elected officials to just eight consecutive years in office, unless voters override that law. District Attorney Mark Hurlburt is asking voters in his four-county (Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek) district to give him and future elected prosecutors three terms in office.
The argument for the exemption is somewhat familiar: District attorney is a complex job, and experience is needed to do the job well. On the other side are those who argue that too much time in an elected office makes someone less responsive to the public, something that is best solved by frequent, mandated turnover.
Avon/Edwards/Minturn/Red Cliff and all points in between
• Ballot issue 5A would raise taxes for voters in the Eagle River Fire Protection District. The proposal would raise taxes in 2012 a total of $1.8 million, just about the equivalent of the district’s estimated drop in property tax revenue for that year. The revenue loss is a big chunk of the district’s 2011 budget of roughly $7 million.
The new tax would be used to keep the district’s budget at 2011 levels until 2019. If the local real estate market doesn’t recover to its 2008 peak before then, the tax goes away unless district voters approve another ballot issue.
District officials say they’ll be forced to cut the firefighting crew if the measure doesn’t pass, and may be forced to go to a system of “rotating closures” of fire stations.
• After almost two years of studying how to provide more money for the town’s free bus service, the Avon Town Council proposed Ballot Issue 2B, a sales tax increase. The increase – .35 percent – amounts to 35 cents on a $100 purchase. If passed, the increase would bring in about $875,000 per year.
Town officials say the money would be dedicated to the bus system, but haven’t committed to specific routes – although much of the conversation about the money involves maintaining the skier shuttle from Avon Center to Beaver Creek Village and a “dinner shuttle” from town to the resort.
• Ballot Question 2C asks voters to amend a handful of items in the town charter. Perhaps the biggest is the proposal to allow the mayor to vote on all issues – the mayor now votes only in case of a tie. The amendments also include language about when town ordinances take effect, and gives the town manager the authority to hire the town clerk.
The Eagle Town Board has put Ballot Issue 2A on the ballot to boost the town’s marketing fund through the town’s lodging tax. If approved, the measure would raise the town’s existing lodging tax from $2 per night to $4 per night, and would raise an estimated $130,000 in the first year.
The ballot measure states that the money raised from the new tax would be used only for marketing, as well as promoting events in Eagle.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.