Tuesday is Election Day; here’s a summary of the issues and races on Eagle County ballots
• To learn more about the town of Vail’s Tuesday, Nov. 7, election, go to http://www.vailgov.com/elections.
• To learn more about the Vail Recreation District’s election, go to http://www.vailrec.com/elections.
EAGLE COUNTY —This is supposed to be an “off” year election, but voters in Eagle County still have a solid handful of choices to make.
Voters across the county will cast ballots by mail on a proposal to impose taxes on recreational marijuana. All county voters will also cast ballots for a Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees election, as well as a CMC-related tax question. All Vail Valley voters will choose members of the Eagle County Schools Board of Directors.
There are also several questions that depend on where voters live. Perhaps the most complicated voting this fall is in the town of Vail. There, residents have received ballots from Eagle County and, separately, the Vail Recreation District. Residents will also vote in person — unless they’ve asked for absentee mail ballots — for a Vail Town Council election.
No matter the issue, all ballots must be returned by Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m.
Here’s how the balloting breaks down:
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Marijuana Sales and Excise Tax
Both Eagle County and the town of Eagle have placed marijuana-related questions on this fall’s ballot.
The Eagle County marijuana question asks voters to authorize new sales and excise taxes of as much as 5 percent each on recreational marijuana for the purpose of funding mental health and substance-abuse services. The ballot question specifies that the initial collection rate will be 2.5 percent in 2018, with future annual increases of 0.5 percent each year thereafter until the 5 percent limit is achieved in 2024.
The county has earmarked the first $1.2 million raised by the tax for mental health and substance abuse services.
In a separate ballot question, the town of Eagle is asking voters to approve a 2.5 percent sales tax on retail marijuana, which could increase 0.5 percent annually to a maximum of 5 percent. Additionally, wholesale marijuana sales in Eagle, by a licensed cultivator selling to stores not owned by the same entity or individuals, will incur a 2.5 percent excise tax.
Eagle’s tax will not be charged on top of Eagle County’s tax for marijuana operations within the community. If Eagle does not increase the tax rate of 2.5 percent, but the county does increase its rate, the county would retain the additional funds. For example, if the town keeps its rate at 2.5 percent but the county rate increases to 3 percent, the county would receive the additional revenues from the additional 0.5 percent.
Part of Eagle’s marijuana sales tax question includes a repeal of the community’s existing marijuana occupation tax. That tax imposes a flat rate on marijuana sales of $1 on sales of $20 or less and $5 on sales of $20.01 and higher. The town’s calculations show that if voters approve the measure, the taxes imposed on marijuana sales in Eagle would actually go down. Under the current model, a customer would pay a total of $26 in taxes on a $100 retail marijuana purchase in town. Under the new sales tax proposal, a customer would pay $23.50 in taxes for a $100 retail marijuana purchase.
Eagle County and the towns of Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, Minturn and Vail are asking voters for permission to opt out of a state law which prohibits the use of public money to provide or improve access to internet and other telecommunications services, either on its own or through partnerships. The ballot questions would not prevent any private business from initiating or continuing to provide these services.
Colorado Mountain College
Colorado Mountain College is seeking voter approval for a ballot measure that could result in a net increase business owners pay to the special district.
The ballot measure would allow the CMC Board of Directors, in given years, to adjust the college’s special district mill levy and avoid reductions in property tax revenues tied to the state’s Gallagher Amendment. That amendment set the state property tax ratio at 55 percent for nonresidential properties and 45 percent for residential properties. Under Gallagher, commercial property is assessed at a fixed 29 percent rate, while the residential rate is flexible to adjust downward to reflect increases in assessed valuation. That is how the balance is maintained.
The 21 percent residential assessment rate in 1985 has been reduced by the Colorado Legislature over the years as residential values increased. But the assessment rate has remained steady at 7.96 percent for the past 10 years. Now, the number of new homes being built along the Front Range has fueled a statewide increase in residential assessed value and the assessment rate is being adjusted down to 7.2 percent. What’s more, state officials forecast that the rate will go down in two years to 6.3 percent.
With all those factors in play, the CMC board is asking to recalculate its mill levy to maintain funding levels whenever Gallagher reductions occur.
A hypothetical analysis prepared by CMC suggests that, had it made such an adjustment this year, residential property owners would still see a reduction in their tax bill, from $32 to $31 per $100,000 of assessed value.
However, because of the fixed rate for nonresidential property, commercial owners would see their CMC tax bill increase $7 per $100,000 of assessed value, from $116 to $123.
The Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees is also holding an election for three board positions. Voters throughout the five-county college district vote for all trustees. Charles Cunniffe is running unopposed in District 1. Doris Dewton is also running unopposed in District 7. In District 3, Peg Portscheller and Randy Winkler are contesting that seat.
Eagle County Schools
There are four seats up for election on the district’s board of directors. Representatives of three director districts are running unopposed: Current school board president Kate Cocchiarella, Inga Haagenson Causey and Melisa Rewold-Thuon are all running for four-year terms.
Matthew Koch and Shelly Jarnot are vying to represent parts of the western end of the Eagle River Valley, from Edwards through parts of Eagle.
Jarnot, the incumbent, has served four years on the board. Koch is a former teacher who runs youth programs.
Town of Vail
The Vail Town Charter has set up the Vail Town Council election schedule in a way that gives town voters the chance to elect a new council majority in every biannual election — most of the time. This year, there are four positions available on the seven-member board. The top three inductees earn four-year terms. The person who receives fourth earns a two-year term.
The candidate field this year includes three incumbents: Mayor Dave Chapin, Jenn Bruno and Greg Moffet. In Moffet’s case, it won’t matter where he finishes in the top four — if he finishes in the top four. Council members can also serve only eight consecutive years, and Moffet’s at six. He’ll only serve another two years if elected.
Besides the three incumbents, there are seven challengers:
Vail continues to host polling-place elections every other year. Unless you want to cast an absentee ballot, you’ll vote Tuesday, Nov. 7, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Vail municipal building.
Ballots must be dropped off at the Eagle County Clerk & Recorder’s office, who will have a ballot drop-off station at the Grand View room atop the Lionshead Village parking structure.
The county drop-off station will open on Monday, Nov. 6, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, the station will be open between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
TOWN OF RED CLIFF
The small town will ask its 243 voters if they want to adopt a use tax for construction and building materials purchased outside of town but used in town, similar to the use taxes imposed in Vail, Avon and other towns in the area. Red Cliff will also ask voters if they want to eliminate the term limits currently imposed on members of the town board.
Vail Recreation District
The district is running a mail ballot election, although ballots can also be dropped off until Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m., at either the district’s Vail office, adjacent to the tennis center, or at the offices of Marchetti & Weaver LLC, in Edwards.
Voters this year are being asked to approve the first-ever request for an increase in property taxes for the district.
The increase is 1 mill, which equates to an additional $36 in property taxes on a home valued at $500,000. The money raised — an estimated $1.09 million in the first year — would be used to help pay for a backlog in capital improvements and maintenance. District officials say there’s an estimated $14 million in maintenance and improvement spending required over the next decade and only about $4 million in existing funds to pay for that work.
The town of Vail and the recreation district have similar boundaries, but the district has a larger pool of voters. The recreation district allows property owners to vote.
Eagle Cemetery District
The Eagle Cemetery District is seeking a mill levy increase of 0.184, to a total mill levy of 0.45 mills.
The increase would generate an estimated $40,670 in revenue for the district, which currently has an annual operating budget of approximately $53,000. The impact of the increase would be approximately $1.32 per year for each $100,000 of home value.
The additional mill levy proceeds would be used to meet increased water and maintenance costs, develop a website for easier access to cemetery information, modernize record keeping and allow for further development of plots and memorial areas on property already deeded to the district.
Red Sky Ranch
In addition to the county, towns and school districts, Eagle County is also home to a host of special districts. One of those is the Red Sky Ranch Metropolitan District, which encompasses the golf course and neighborhood south of, and uphill from, the Wolcott exit on Interstate 70. The district is asking its roughly 40 voters to impose a 5.5 percent sales tax. That tax, expected to raise $100,000 in its first year, would apply to sales at the golf course clubhouse and also to short-term rentals within the district. Funds generated would be used for infrastructure maintenance.
This is a mail election, run by Marchetti & Weaver LLC.