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Most town questions worthy

Don Rogers

Along with candidates ranging from president to county commissioners and Avon Town Council members on our ballots this year, we have an interesting array of town ballot measures seeking small tax increases.First, kudos to the town leaders willing to put their tax issues on the ballot when turnout will be highest – Eagle County expects a good 80 percent of the eligible voters to cast ballots by Nov. 2. Local governments sometimes gauge the prospects for passage on “off-year” elections when fewer citizens feel compelled to carry out their civic right and duty to cast votes.Four of Eagle County’s municipal ballot questions concern this valley:– Minturn voters will decide whether to proceed with a plan to lease town land to an RV and lodge developer who also will build a recreation center and community pavilion open to residents. This would bring much needed revenue to the town without a tax increase.– Gypsum voters will decide whether to add a penny to their sales tax for a recreation center whose key feature is an indoor swimming pool. About 40 percent of the cost would actually come from people who rent cars at the airport. The tax would end as soon as the rec center’s construction was paid off.– Vail Recreation District voters have two property tax increases to consider. One aims to add nearly a million dollars to the district’s operating revenue each year, with an increase that adds $137 per $1 million in property value. The other seeks permission to issue $6 million in bonds to build a new golf course clubhouse and Nordic center, replace bridges on the golf course and buy Nordic snow grooming equipment. The tax increase involved here is not set, but would not exceed $700,000 in additional annual revenue for the district.Vail Rec initiatives The Vail Recreation District has struggled with the golf course and renovations to the Dobson Ice Arena for years. Previous tax initiatives took care of the Dobson. Now it’s time to get serious about the golf course and aging clubhouse, which doubles as Vail’s Nordic center. The district’s ballot question 5B seeks to build a new golf-Nordic clubhouse, along with rebuilding bridges and upgrading snowmaking equipment for the Nordic courses.It’s all tangible improvement that we agree is needed. While a property tax increase to be determined is involved, the district’s rate is low, and this increase would be lower than the district seeks in ballot question 5A.We recommend yes on 5B.But 5A is another story. We’re sure the district would be thrilled to have an extra $915,593 to meet expenses each year. The laundry list of what they would do with the money is extensive, including an end to taking out bridge loans, and to buy vehicles, office equipment, mowers, expand programs and so on. Officials say they could open a capital fund for renovations of facilities and start an equipment replacement program. And besides, their property taxes are deductible, compared to higher user fees.It’s all a bit amorphous, in comparison to the more specific nature of the bond question. 5A has the feel of a catch-all. What happened to the vaunted business expertise of that bloc of board members elected to bring fiscal discipline to the district? Anyone can find ways to spend more revenue.With 5A, the district has not made the case with us to recommend passage. This one merits rejection.Minturn RV parkThis idea is a handful of years old, and at last has landed where it belongs: on the ballot. Rather than town fathers forcing the issue, or critics torpedoing it with just a small number of people involved in the decision, this goes to a vote of the citizens. Congratulations to the wisdom of the Minturn Town Council on this one.Now, how to vote? Citizens of this historic town have a great deal of concern about preserving their heritage, and a great deal to worry about when it comes to the town having enough income to provide basic services.Across the river and largely out of view at the southeast end of town lies 38 acres strewn with junk, a gravel pit and radio antenna. With no recreational vehicle resorts in the vicinity, this would be a good investment for the town that would bring in a third more in revenue than the town is getting now.In place of the veritable junk yard would be 19 acres of a well-landscaped and tidy place for campers, along with a pavilion that locals could book for weddings and such, along with a recreation center and swimming pool. That’s not a bad deal.Business would get a much needed boost, since RV travelers tend to be well off and looking to spend money in the places they visit.The main worry, a projected 8 percent increase in traffic through town, is something to take into account. But the advantages to the town in revenue, community facilities and business vibrancy offset a touch more traffic on the highway to Leadville.We recommend a yes vote.Gypsum rec centerGypsum, too, has had a fair amount of discussion about building a recreation center and pool. A town survey in 2000 showed that a majority of the town’s residents wanted such a facility.Of course, these things don’t just fall from heaven. They cost money to build, and they cost money to operate. Ask Avon, which must subsidize its busy rec center and indoor pool. OK, then, put it to a vote. Are the citizens of Gypsum willing to commit an extra penny in sales tax to build this? Since the airport falls within town limits, sales tax revenue from there, primarily from car rentals, would provide about 40 percent of the revenue. Not bad having an opportunity for visitors to contribute to a town amenity such as this.Sales tax is more volatile than property tax, so there is some risk in blips. There could well be down years, although the trend at the airport bodes well for more revenue rather than less over the coming years.The pool that is being talked about is a bit modest with just three lap lanes rather than the more standard six. Perhaps in addition to WECMRD, the recreation district downvalley, contributing $3 million to building this facility, the school district and even county could join in, as well. Town Manager Jeff Shroll mentioned the possibility of the school district and town in a few years building another pool. Perhaps they might consider going a little bigger with this one.Nonetheless, as is, this looks like a good deal for the community, and we recommend a yes vote.D.R.Vail, Colorado


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