New tax hindering Land Trust
Ironically, however, the tax has begun to hurt an organization dedicated to preserving that very thing. The initiative has created a difficult situation for the Eagle Valley Land Trust, which is dedicated to preserving open space and environmentally and historically sensitive parcels of land.
The trust is entirely dependant on donations for is operational budget and for specific projects. But donations have begun to shrink due to the perception the trust will directly benefit from the tax revenues.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” says the trust’s executive director, Cindy Cohagen. “The Land Trust will not receive funds from the tax for any of our day-to-day operations. We rely 100 percent on tax-deductible contributions to keep this organization running. The rub is the Land Trust has continuing operating expenses.”
The tax will be collected and disbursed by Eagle County, and the trust will apply for funds on a project-specific basis, Cohagen says.
“If anything, we will need more donations for operations,” adds a former president of the trust, Tom Steinberg. “If we are going to try and go out and develop projects and more education programs, we will need more staff and more money. Our budget will get tougher because we have to do more to develop projects to bring them before the county for approval. There will be no guarantees that we will receive funding for any given project.”
Steinberg says the trust has to work harder to overcome the perception that it is the beneficiary of the new tax.
The county tax, which will add $70 at year in tax to a property valued at $500,000, is expected to raise $2.98 million a year. That money will be collected next year. Meanwhile, the trust this year reduced its annual operating budget 10 percent – to about $160,000 – to reflect the difficulty in raising donations in an economic downturn.
“We rely 100 percent on contributions to fund those expenses,” she says. “In addition, we have to raise project-specific funds.”
Two years ago the trust raised $300,000 to protect a scenic waterfall in East Vail; this year it raised $150,000 to protect a 480-acre parcel for open space in West Avon. Cohagen says she has been busy raising $262,000 to acquire a conservation easement on a 62.5-acre parcel near Tennessee Pass to protect wetlands and an historic mining town.
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.