Vail Daily letter: 5A not well thought out
Eagle-Vail, CO, Colorado
Recently, Eagle Vail Metropolitan District and Property Owners Association boards and homeowners met to discuss the proposal 5A, which asks Eagle Vail property owners to allow the district board to sell debt obligations of $7.5 million to be repaid through significantly increased taxes on each Eagle Vail property.
A very general current budget was presented, along with some projections of potential shortfalls in future real estate taxes. It turns out that Eagle-Vail is solvent, though current budgets are tight and revenue projections 10 months out are bleak.
The new money is mainly to be used to improve existing recreational facilities so as “to enhance our image and quality of life offerings.”
Mr. MacCutcheon, the newly hired Eagle-Vail community manager, has led a recent analysis of the “need for new revenue sources coupled with cost savings and as part of the process, review all previously proposed projects and solutions and come out with a game plan. …”
This debt issue is the “game plan” which sparked many questions but few concrete answers. Here is how the discussion appeared to me:
First, this 5A proposal should not be confused with the other 5A proposal two years ago which raised funds for these same purposes by extending a mill levy on property. Money was raised, but not enough it seems, and in any event it wasn’t spent on these projects.
Second, there was no mention at all of any cost savings to be “coupled with new revenue sources.” A list of previous studies was shown without explanation. Discussion dealt entirely with new revenue.
Third, a list of six construction projects to improve recreation facilities was presented. Sadly, when questioned the board was unable to say how much each was projected to cost. Why? Well, “We can’t get an exact bid until we have the money in hand.” Huh?
Mr. MacCutcheon intervened to say that for sure the new Olympic-size swimming pool would cost at least $3.7 million (and be open three months each year).
Fourth, under questioning it was revealed that both the golf course and the swimming pool lose significant amounts of money (but no one was exactly sure how much). Moreover, after they are “improved” they will still lose money.
Fifth, despite having done (and paid for) five or six studies over the past two or three years, this 5A bond proposal was apparently the only idea the board could propose. One wonders, after all those studies, aren’t there alternative budgets (maybe showing savings) or revenue ideas? Or other ideas?
For example, many have suggested that Eagle-Vail merge with Avon.
Among other apparent benefits of such a merger, some 5A problems might improve or disappear.
By drawing on a much broader Avon population base, the (improved) golf course might draw enough players so that it stops losing money. The $3.7 million swimming pool would not be needed at all, because Avon already has a superb, year-round facility.
When questioned, the board admitted that Avon alternatives had not been examined.
However, the board did point out that Vail had opened tentative merger discussions because Vail is “almost out of land,” the land areas around the old Battle Mountain High School are “very attractive to developers,” and evidently some Eagle-Vail residents greatly appreciate the cache of maintaining their post office address in Vail.
The board’s central fund-raising motivation is the belief that these “improvements” will raise Eagle-Vail property values, and conversely, without them, values will fall.
Several attendees pointed out that these facilities are not widely used by residents, and were not the reason they bought in Eagle-Vail.
An attending real estate agent pointed out that Eagle-Vail was attractive almost solely due to location.
So there you have it. Let’s raise taxes to borrow a lot of money; spend about half of it on a huge swimming pool, which few would use, for three months; improve the cart paths and water features of the golf course and hope that more golfers will show up.
In fairness, there were a few “beautification” ideas (e.g. burying power lines) which deserve the small funding required, but nowhere near $7.5 million.
Based on the thin data presented, and the incomplete and vague responses to serious questions, voters should definitely vote “no,” and the board should go back to the drawing board and return with a sensible set of alternatives.
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