Vail rec district won’t get this year’s tax hike
VAIL – The Vail Recreation District missed a key deadline, and won’t collect a voter-approved tax increase this year.District officials missed a county deadline to file new tax rate information. Instead of the larger tax rate, officials filed year-old information, meaning the district won’t collect about $280,000 that would have gone to pay debt on a 2001 bond issue.District voters approved the tax increase in May of last year. That increase goes directly to payment of a bond issue that paid for repairs and renovations at Dobson Ice Arena, freeing up money for other district programs and projects. The question now is how to meet that bond payment and stick to a budget that right now is short by about $280,000.”They needed to have the information in by Dec. 15 and they didn’t,” said Eagle County Finance Director Mike Roeper, who certifies the tax rates for every government and special district in the county. Tax bills are then figured using the rates charged by all those governments and districts.The immediate impact of the mistake is a change in the district’s administration. District director Dennis Stein resigned last week, citing a family emergency. He has been replaced by longtime district employee Mike Ortiz.Low standards? Now, Ortiz, rec board members and the district’s lawyer and trying to find ways to keep the district on a sound financial footing. Jim Collins, the district’s Denver-based attorney, is working on a plan to keep finances on track.The district has just more than a year’s bond payment in a reserve account. If the bond issuer’s insurance company allows the district to use that money this year, there’s virtually no impact on the budget. If not, matters could get complicated.
“We’ll be able to offer a full slate of programs, no matter what,” Ortiz said.With programs last on the list of any possible cuts, rec board member Scott Proper said the district could look at other plans, such as a new program to build up its cash reserves.”But operating reserves are a very big deal,” Proper said. “I’d be disinclined to do that.”Proper said he was “blown away” when he learned the tax hike wouldn’t be collected this year. “I think it highlights low standards we’ve had,” he said. “Those low standards need to be responded to aggressively.”Overlapping expensesAs word of the filing mistake filtered through Vail both Proper and Vail Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan both said they started to again hear residents question why the recreation district isn’t a department of the town. That was the case until 1993, when Vail voters created an independent recreation district with the authority to raise and collect taxes.Donovan said she thinks the time has come to bring recreation back into the town government.”It’s in the best interest of recreation in Vail for the recreation district to dissolve and become a department of the town, if for no other reason than the duplication and overlapping of many expenses,” Donovan said. Voters would need to approve any plan to dissolve the district.
“All our options should be kept open,” Proper said. “But it might be quite a legal mess. I suspect it’s more complex than a lot of people think it is.”But before any questions about the district’s future can be answered, the immediate problem remains. Collins said he’s “cautiously optimistic” the bond reserve fund can be used.”I don’t think anything has to go right now,” rec board member Nino Licciardi said. For now, though, Licciardi said he’s waiting to hear the reports at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday. “We’ll know a lot more then,” he said.
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or email@example.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado