Editorial: Say ‘yes’ to Vail Recreation District’s modest tax increase request
It’s easy to think of the Vail Recreation District as an arm of the town of Vail. That isn’t the case.
Since the 1990s, the district has been an independent entity that operates town facilities and runs a host of programs. The district also runs its own elections, meaning district voters have separate ballots this fall for county, town and recreation district elections. Recreation district ballots can be mailed back or dropped off at the district’s office at the town’s tennis center or at the Edwards office of Marchetti and Weaver, the designated election official.
Since many people don’t know the district is independent, it’s also easy to think that since the town of Vail has millions in the bank, the recreation district is similarly flush.
Again, that isn’t the case.
While most of the town’s revenue comes from sales and lodging taxes, the recreation district gets by, in large part, on a relatively small property tax mill levy. That mill levy hasn’t risen since the district was created in 1993. Nor has the district ever asked for an increase.
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That’s why this year’s recreation district election is a big deal and a request worthy of your vote. The district, which mostly mirrors the town’s boundaries, is asking voters to increase the mill levy by one mill. That equates to roughly $36 in taxes for every $500,000 of home value.
The increase will raise an estimated $1.09 million per year. According to the district, the money will be dedicated to tackling a backlog of capital expenses. There’s an estimated $14 million of needed repairs and upgrades throughout the next decade and about $4 million in funds to do the work. Projects include replacing three bridges at the Vail Golf Club, as well as replacing the refrigeration units at Dobson Ice Arena with a system that’s more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly.
If the mill levy doesn’t pass, the maintenance work still needs to be done, and there will be little money available to do it. In the absence of a boost in property tax revenue, district officials say they’ll have to raise fees for programs from golf to youth programs. Some of those increases could be as much as 30 percent.
And the district runs a lot of programs, from the annual summer mountain bike race series to adult leagues for softball, soccer, hockey, volleyball, basketball, cornhole and more.
Youth activities are even more extensive. The district runs the Zeke M. Pierce Skatepark, as well as leagues including T-ball, soccer, basketball and more. The district also runs a gymnastics program, the popular Imagination Station and KidZone camps for before and after school, as well as during school breaks and the summer months.
All this is just a sample of what the district offers to both adults and kids.
Fee increases in the kids’ programs would hit parents especially hard. A number of parents use district programs for after-school and summer care while they’re working. A $20 per day increase adds up quickly, especially if parents have more than one child using those programs.
Those youth programs also help visiting families who might want an afternoon to themselves.
While some residents — or homeowners, since this election is open to both — may use the district’s programs lightly, if at all, there’s a bigger idea at stake in this election. Things such as golf, race series and kids’ programs make Vail a more lively, more desirable place to live in or visit. Quality of life, on and off Vail Mountain, is a key part of the community’s brand. This modest boost in district residents’ tax bills will be money very well spent.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board consists of Business Editor Scott Miller, Editor Krista Driscoll and Publisher Mark Wurzer.