Rec board, property tax on Vail ballot
Voters will answer at least three questions about the future of the Vail Recreation District on Tuesday.
The first question is whether district voters will agree to pay more property tax, specifically for debt service on an existing bond. Voters will also pick between three candidates for two seats on the district’s five-member board. Incumbents Hermann Staufer and Tom Saalfeld are not seeking re-election.
The proposed tax hike will cover the debt service on a $3.4 million bond that paid for repairs and renovations to Dobson Arena. The upgrades, done in 2001, included an improved refrigeration system.
District Executive Director Dennis Stein said the measure, if approved, will raise $280,000 in the first year. Approval would raise taxes by about $51 per year on a home valued at $1 million. District taxes on that home now run about $219 per year.
The increase expire in 16 years, when the original bond is retired. The last payment would be in March of 2020.
The district board had first discussed asking voters for approval of a plan that included tax increases to pay for the bond debt on the ice arena as well as two new bonds. One, with an estimated cost of $3.5 million, would have funded renovation of the Vail Golf Course and created an indoor recreation facility at Red Sandstone Elementary School. The other, with an estimated cost of $4 million, would have paid for an extensive renovation at the Vail Golf Clubhouse and Nordic Center.
The additional tax questions may be put to voters in November, or in a future election.
If the current tax increase is approved, Stein said the district’s bank accounts would be freed up for other projects and programs.
“We could potentially lessen our dependence on fees,” Stein said. “We could use it for other expenses, and potentially develop a capital improvement fund for repair and upkeep we can’t do now.”
Who will make those decisions is another question voters will answer May 4.
Seeking to replace Staufer and Saalfeld are Scott Proper, Michelle Hall and Jeff Christensen.
In a candidate profile published last week, Proper, a loan officer at Millennium Bank in Edwards, said passing the tax question is crucial to the district’s financial health. Proper also believes the district needs to better publicize its services. Among other things, that would get more visitors involved in – and helping pay for – district programs.
Hall, who works for the Avon Library, has been involved in planning the indoor recreation facility at Red Sandstone Elementary School. In her profile, Hall said she would personally be willing support slightly higher taxes for the indoor recreation facility and golf course renovations.
Christensen also supports the Dobson debt service question. In addition, he favors working with the town of Vail to reduce or eliminate the district’s lease payments for facilities including Dobson and the golf course.
All three said sound financial management and improving the quality of district programs is essential to the district’s future.
While there are three candidates for two seats, voter turnout probably won’t approach 2002 levels. Two years ago, board members Nino Licciardi, Julie Hansen and Peter Cook ran as a “coalition,” and campaigned hard for their seats. That hard campaigning, and an extensive advertising campaign resulted in a record turnout of 2,217 voters.
What: Vail Recreation District election
When: Tuesday, May 4, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Vail Town Hall
At issue: A proposed mill levy increase and two seats on the five-member board.