Vail rec district will ask for two tax hikes |

Vail rec district will ask for two tax hikes

Scott N. Miller
NWS Golf Course Maintenance PU 9-5 Preston Utley/ Reid Griebling at the Vail Golf Course uses an old collar mower to shorten the edges of the greens.

VAIL – The Vail Recreation District is swinging for the greens this fall.The district board recently voted to send two separate tax-increase proposals to district voters Nov. 2. The first, a straight tax increase, would raise about $915,000 per year, providing money for operating costs, equipment and maintenance needs.The other increase would fund a $6 million bond that would replace the golf course clubhouse and Nordic center at the Vail Golf Course. That measure would raise about $700,000 per year for repayment. Board members debated the merits of three proposals: a smaller property tax increase combined with a bond issue; a larger increase with the bond issue; or one big ballot issue to cover everything. The board finally decided to split the two measures for specific uses.”I think we should go higher,” board member Michelle Hall said. Hall, who works for the Eagle Valley Library District, said that district grew faster than anyone expected in its first several years and ended up asking voters for more money as it matured in the 1990s. “I don’t want to go back to voters for a long time,” she said.Rec district Director Dennis Stein told board members they were taking a risk by proposing two tax increases in one election. Ultimately, though, board members decided to roll the dice.

“I think we can persuade them for all the right reasons,” board member Nino Liccardi said.Later, Stein detailed some of those reasons.The clubhouse was built in the 1960s, Stein said, and was built economically then. “It’s really not in line with what people expect in Vail,” he said.In addition, with locker rooms and restrooms downstairs, the clubhouse is completely non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and has recently been ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to get in line with the law. Beyond that, golf course revenue has fallen from $1.4 million in 1999 to just more than $700,000 in 2003, and receipts are expected to fall another $100,000 this year. Stein said a new building, visible from Interstate 70, could serve as a kind of billboard to draw potential customers off the highway and into town.The clubhouse isn’t the only district asset in need of attention.At the meeting at which the tax questions were approved, Liccardi said district has at least one pickup truck that essentially melted down on the road recently. “Our fleet program is basically non-existent,” Stein said. “We have vehicles that aren’t road-worthy and no replacement program.”

Over the years, district employees have learned to improvise or simply do without, Stein said. But the district, with a $4.3 million budget, declining revenues and no reserves, is facing bills beyond vehicles and tools.The district’s tennis facilities face crumbling foundations and failing water systems on the clay courts. Just the cost of water system repairs is $50,000 per bank of courts, Stein said. At the golf course, some bridges won’t accommodate the grooming machines for Nordic skiing, meaning large areas of the property can’t be groomed.But there will be costs in raising taxes for operating, capital needs and a new clubhouse. The tax increase for the bond issue isn’t fixed because the cost of the bonds won’t be set until shortly before they’re sold. The tax increase for more money, though, is fixed at 1.7 mills, which translates to $137 per million dollars of home value. Even if both measures pass, the district’s overall property tax bite would remain lower than the state average for recreation districts. Still, Stein said, board members will need to get out and sell the proposals to voters.If the measures do pass, Stein said the district could have its fiscal house in order for a long time to come. “We could get away from mortgaging our future to take care of today,” Stein said. “We need to tell people we can improve service while still being good stewards of their tax money.”

What they’re asking for:• A $6 million bond to rebuild the golf/nordic center, to be repaid with higher property taxes.• A general property tax increase to generate $915,000 per year split between capital projects and operating expensesStaff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or Daily, Vail Colorado

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