Schools staff, program cuts elsewhere won’t happen here
EDWARDS — Local schools hit the lottery, but not the Powerball, while housing tax proponents just took the hit from local voters in November’s election.
A Vail Symposium panel explained what local tax success and failures mean to them and us.
Voters are more likely to pass local tax increases than state or national measures, said Nick Colglazier, director of the Colorado Competitive Council.
“The further you get from local government, the less voters trust it. That’s probably a good thing,” Colglazier said.
‘Slows down stupid’
For educators around Colorado, not much will change at the state level. Republicans still control the House; Democrats control the Senate.
That’s just fine with Jason Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools.
“I like divided government because it slows down stupid,” Glass said.
State funding won’t increase appreciably this year, or probably any other, Glass said.
“Unless something changes at the Constitutional level, we will never see a return to pre-recession funding levels around the state,” Glass said.
Several of Colorado’s 178 school districts will face staff layoffs and cutting programs, he said.
“You won’t see that here, thanks to the great gift from our voters,” Glass said. “This puts us in a different conversation than other school districts around the state.”
The local school district and its supporters spent three years creating and running the grassroots campaign that saw voters approve the largest tax increase in Eagle County history: (3A) $8 million more per year in operating money, and (3B) permission to borrow $144 million for building projects — $233 million with interest.
“With 3A, our schools hit the lottery, but not the Powerball,” Glass said.
Moving ahead with housing
It was a tough election for pollsters. Along with their obvious miscalculations in the presidential election, they badly missed on the county’s housing tax proposal.
The housing tax got “walloped,” said Jill Klosterman, Eagle County’s housing director.
When the votes were counted, 63 percent of Eagle County’s voters opposed it.
However, pre-election polling said:
• 62 percent said they’d support it.
• 95 percent said affordable housing is a serious issue.
“We’ve been talking about workforce housing for 50 years,” Klosterman said. “No one can say this is not a supply problem. How to get to the solution is another matter.”
Klosterman said that prior to the election, supporters did not tell their story very well. They were proposing projects such as Miller Ranch, not Cabrini Green, she said.
A colleague was driving behind a local retailer and saw four families living in their cars, Klosterman said.
A definition of what’s affordable tends to be a moving target, according to Klosterman, but the human issue is not.
“The goal is to keep people from living in overcrowded and substandard housing, and from living in their cars. That’s a win,” Klosterman said.
They’ll probably try their tax proposal again, but in the meantime they’ll do what they can with their limited resources, Klosterman said.
A regional housing coalition is possible, said Chris Romer, president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.
They’ll look for some help from the private sector.
You can also expect proposals for more density, and probably higher prices, Klosterman said. She said she was encouraged when Vail approved a Marriott that included 96 units of workforce housing, down from 107 the developer originally proposed.
Colglazier said among the state-level, affordable housing remedies is tapping the brakes on Colorado’s construction defects bill. That bill makes builders liable for any alleged construction defects for up to 10 years. It has been a distinct damper on the construction industry, Colglazier said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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