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Letters to the Editor

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Answering questionsAs the chief financial officer for the Eagle County School District, I would like to try to clear up some confusion about school funding and bond elections.Under the Colorado School Finance Act, funds are not provided for new buildings or significant renovations to existing buildings. Our total operating budget is dictated by the School Finance Act, and we cannot use operating revenues for new buildings or significant renovations. That’s why bond issues are the only way school districts can build new buildings or do major renovations. When there is no new election questions for school construction or renovation, increases in property values make possible mill levy reductions in growing counties like ours. That is one reason why in Eagle County we have reduced the mill levy for debt repayment on prior bond issues by almost 50 percent in six years, from 6.609 mills in 1999 to 3.505 in 2005. We have also paid off three bond issues in the last five years, and falling interest rates have allowed us to refinance our remaining debt, saving taxpayers over $1.2 million. As of December, the only remaining bonded debt of the district will be the bonds approved in November, 1998.So over the last seven years, we have reduced the bonded debt tax burden on our citizens. However, our growth means that after an extensive public input process, the school board has concluded that we need new schools and major renovations. As a result, we are asking the voters to approve Question 3B on the November ballot. Under that proposal, the debt mill levy will increase to 7.380, only slightly above the debt mill levy of 1999. The school district has spent the last two years working with the community to evaluate the need for additional space and facility repair. Over 20 different options were developed, discussed and debated. The bond question is the result of this lengthy process. Many people who did not participate in the process may believe that all ideas haven’t been considered. I was present at almost every meeting, and I can assure you that every idea submitted in person or in writing was considered. At the end of the process, there was strong consensus among the participants for two new buildings and the repair of our existing buildings. I hope this explanation helps community members better understand financing of schools and the need to ask voters for construction dollars. As always, if you have questions concerning the financial matters of the school district I would be happy to discuss them with you. Karen Strakbein Chief Financial Officer Eagle County School District Hope for the futureOh, that I could find the path the obtaining equal time to respond to your Mr. Richard Carnes! I would like for you to print a headline that states “Why tax increases will pass.”They are going to pass because our general population understands that our hope for I’d had the future comes through educating our children. Seldom does one buy a TV or car that meets the minimum standard. Why do those same folks choose to skimp on our most valuable resource, our human resources?My children are educated, productive adults now, but I will happily work longer to pay to educate today’s children in newer, nicer and more advanced schools so that we can move into a higher quality of life for all. I’m happy to retire a few years later in order to support the children living in our country. I believe in the children and believe that they deserve the best from us, as we received from our parents. To those whose personal hobbies are not mine, I recommend that you give up your toys and better educate a child; skip a hunting season and donate the money to Habitat for Humanity; spend less time enjoying snow sports and volunteer to teach kids how to live in the real work. Give our kids a role model for their future so that we can all survive the current state of the world by moving into a more resourceful way of being in the world. Diana Scott Eagle Weigh votes carefullyElection Day is approaching and many of you have been assaulted with negative campaign propaganda, some anonymous, some not. While this type of campaigning has been around for years, the increase in its presence this year in Avon is disturbing. Please review each Avon Town councilor candidate for their experience, their dedication, their ability to listen and their values. This is a local election where each voter can meet the candidates and talk with them about the issues and use the results when casting their vote. The Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau is hosting a candidate forum on Thursday, Oct. 26, 6-8 p.m. at Avon Town Hall. Due to term limits, citizens who are not currently on the board will replace two of my fellow councilors. As a representative of the residents of Avon your councilors will spend hours reading pounds of information for the meetings. I know that I will miss Mac and Debbie’s experience and, along with my fellow councilors, will need to step up to fill their shoes. I also know that what makes a council work is the dedication of every member to come to the table prepared to discuss the topic at hand, willing to listen to all arguments presented and ask questions before casting their vote. I encourage our citizens to remember that when casting their vote.I have learned much about the details of running a town in the past two years, but what I have learned most of all is to listen. When the council convenes, I have done my homework but not made up my mind. I listen to applicants, staff and fellow board members to understand the very complex issues at hand. Each and every meeting I listen, learn and understand more, government really is quite complicated. Sometimes my decisions are based on information brought forth by a councilor, often by the applicant, public or staff. Our council currently works because of the diversity of experience. Big business executives are great with the big pictures, small businesswomen with many details that affect the average day-to-day business owner and workers, lawyers with contract language, architects with land use and planning principals. The most important trait of all is to listen, learn and then vote. I encourage each of you to remember that when casting your vote.Two of my fellow councilors are up for re-election. While I may or may not agree with them depending on the issue, I know from experience that Ron Wolfe and Brian Sipes are knowledgeable on the topics and are prepared and willing to listen and debate the issues before casting a vote. At the end of the day, whether we agree or not there is respect for one another. They have diverse life experiences but both are committed to making Avon the best place it can be, they call it home. Replacing one, the other or both will not change the existing PUD at the Village at Avon, it will not make the taxes on the Sheraton deed-restricted units any lower, it will not change transfer taxes from capitol funds to operating funds, nor will it create the operating funds necessary to run a shuttle in Wildridge. It will simply give you additional councilors that need to read and understand piles and piles of material before they cast their first vote. Perhaps some of them will be better listeners, perhaps they won’t. Please think about that as you cast your votes.There are five candidates that are vying for a minimum of two seats. While I know some of them better than others, what I ask each of you to evaluate is their willingness to listen, their ability to become knowledgeable on the topics, their dedication to preparing for the meetings and most importantly at the end of the day after the debate is over and the vote is cast, whether we agree or not, will there be respect for one another. Please think about that as you cast your votes.Please do not let the negative and anonymous campaigning tarnish the Avon Town council election. When you receive an anonymous piece, guess for yourself the motivation behind it, who is bringing their ax to grind and how does it really affect you. The future of our town depends on your vote. Amy PhillipsAvon Town CouncilAgainst home ruleHaving read a number of recent letters and columns regarding home rule, I would like to add my two cents worth:1. Those in favor often start with the premise that we need additional commissioners. Why? There is no guarantee that having five people involved in the issues which now engage our commissioners would add anything to the debate. Three people who are thoughtful and respectful of the opinions of the public and of each other – whether or not they agree – are likely to be more effective than five. I have attended several meetings of the commissioners regarding proposed developments in the county. Sometimes they saw it my way and sometimes not! But having two more people at table would not have added anything to the debate. They would simply have agreed or disagreed with me by a larger margin!2. Proponents argue that the Roaring Fork section of the county deserves better representation. This assumes that they are not well represented now. Though I have heard that complaint, I have read nothing that spells out the details of the lack of representation. It is my understanding that the county spends significantly more money in that area than it receives in taxes from it. Several projects recommended for open space spending are in that area. In addition, home rule requires that the county be divided into districts approximately equal in population. Using the 2000 census numbers, the Roaring Fork area only represents 18%. If that area does not grow as fast as the rest of the county, the district will have to be changed in just a couple of years.3. The paper indicates that the two new commissioners will cost us close to $400,000 per year. It may not be a large percentage of the county’s annual budget, but it is still real money and, as noted above, I am not convinced that we will get anything important for our dollars.4. Although the idea of keeping party politics out of county races has some attraction in the middle of election season when we are all sick of the ads of both parties coming out of Denver, this is not, in fact, a good idea. I am a Republican – and knowing that tells people something about my own personal biases. I have never agreed with all of the Republican Party positions. In particular, I am pro-choice and have worked for the election of women to national office on a bipartisan basis. I do not agree with all of the suggestions laid out in the sample ballot sent out by the Eagle County Republicans. But still my party affiliation says something about how I think: I believe in smaller rather than larger government; lower rather than higher taxes; fiscal conservatism; and the exercise of individual rights and responsibilities. In future county commissioner races I want to know those things about the candidates. From what set of biases do they start? Getting rid of party affiliation is just covering up information we deserve as we think about who we want to govern us at the local level.5. I believe in the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” My husband and I have been full-time residents of the county for only four years. But in that time I have become involved in a number of local activities. This is a great place to live. We have issues and need to continue to work on them. But I see and hear nothing that tells me the county governance system is broken. Fixing it with home rule- in addition to costing significant sums of money – may well bring on the law of unintended consequences. One example: the proposed charter has a code of ethics section which states in part: “consistent with its policy making authority and with its supervisory authority under Article V, the Board of County Commissioners shall not interfere with the administrative functions of the county or the professional duties of the county staff.” What does that mean? Is it a positive thing intended to permit county employees to go about their daily work without undue influence and interference of commissioners? Or is it a provision that will set up a wall so that the county is in effect governed by the staff and not the commissioners. One thing I do know for certain: I don’t get to choose the county staff. And I certainly don’t want them exercising governmental powers under the auspices of provisions like this. This is just one concrete example of pitfalls that may exist in the proposed new form of government. I believe there are others.Although we should acknowledge and have appreciation for the time and effort of the people who worked on the proposed charter, there is no need to agree with them. I urge you to talk, read and think – and make your own informed choice.Ruth PowersEdwardsHolding accountableFoolishness, indeed, and it is you, Mr. Village Developer, who is being foolish! I am a political scientist and a bit of a junkie for local politics. My work and sleeping schedules allow me to watch all of the area town meetings on Channel 5. I have gleefully followed the shenanigans in Vail and now am more amazed and entertained by the developer of the Village at Avon’s statements and assertions. Avon has the best town council in the valley and that it has ever had. Mayor Wolfe and Councilor Sipes, whom you attack, are doing incredibly good work for the town and are rightfully holding you accountable in the best interest of Avon.All of the payments cited by the developer are obligations in accordance with the 1998 agreement. That agreement requires the developer to reimburse the town of Avon for all costs and all lost sales tax from the old Wal-Mart site. In other words, these payments are required to keep the town whole. And this is a small compensation for the tens of millions of dollars of tax concessions that the town gave away (foolishly, I think) in 1988. So why does this developer purpose the payment of debts is some generous contribution to the town? This is not some windfall or new revenue to Avon. This is just the developer’s obligation that the town not lose money or get hurt in any way. And by the way, am I not observing that the payments are getting a wee bit tardy with the town having to send a late notice here and there? Perhaps the developer should consider being a little less the developer and more a member of the town.The Town Council has managed to bring together large groups of owners and developers to plan reconfiguration and redevelopment of the center of Avon. How is it that other developers can find a way to get their projects done, make a lot of money and have the town benefit, also? The developer of the Village at Avon should stop believing that there is some sort of vendetta against him. Do good and complete work and do good for the town and you will get respect and cooperation from my town.We all should celebrate the members of the Town Council for their hard work and the results that they have delivered. We should all applaud their efforts and demonstrated integrity. Is everything they have done perfect? N o. But they have done admirably, extensively and ethically.Vote to re-elect Ron Wolfe and Brian Sipes.Angus MackieAvonFor FisherWe are truly fortunate to have someone with Sara Fisher’s qualifications interested in taking on the responsibility of county commissioner.Sara’s experience as a two-term county clerk and recorder means that she can come into this important task with a running start.Her record of the effective and smooth running of that complex and demanding organization speaks for itself. She played a key role in bringing Eagle County’s voting system into the computer age. We were among the first in the State to do this successfully. It was a demanding task which required both technical expertise and a great deal of training, both for her staff and the election judges (of which I was one).Throughout her career, she has demonstrated a strong sense of ethics, and the sound management needed to be responsible for our large and growing county budget.We need people of this character in the management of our County affairs.Vote for Sara Fisher.Jim BottomleyAvonWhy there?I would like to point out something I find interesting about the Avon elections. These cand idates , who people are electing to represent them, to follow rules, plan etc….are already violating public land rights. Take a drive up to Wildridge and note all the signs on the side of the road that are not on private property. Why are these future representives putting signs on public property. You are not allowed to put garage sale signs up on these areas, hen why are they allowed to pollute th e land with these signs. These candidates should be able to get private citizens to support them and post their signs on their land. They should not be allowed to put signs on the side of the road on BLM land or town land. Avon residents should ask why? Why are they already making special rules for themselves and will this continue in office. Stuart SellerMake valley a homeI will vote “yes” for Referendum 1A, the child-care initiative.Friends of mine moved to Oregon last spring. They had recently been married and had bought a townhouse in Edwards. They wanted to make the Vail Valley their home. When she got pregnant, they both realized how much they would struggle in order to raise a family here. Vail’s beautiful, they thought, but why not move somewhere else where they would get paid more, could afford a bigger house, have available child care spots, and have an all-around lower cost of living?Now that my wife and I have reached the end of our 20s, many more of our friends are asking themselves that same question.This trend is not unique to our friends. 30- to 40-year-olds are the only age group growing smaller in Eagle County’s booming population, according to a study by Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. People reaching this life stage realize that their cramped apartments that suited them fine as 20-something bachelors aren’t good enough to raise a family. They move away.A balanced community is a healthy community. Young families have the deck stacked against them in Eagle County, and this trend is only getting worse. Anything we can do to give young families a fair shake will make our area a better place to live. A comprehensive child care plan-the best in the state-won’t solve all the struggles young families face here, but it will help. Referendum 1A will help keep our teachers, our firefighters, our police officers in the valley. This is why I’ve been volunteering my time to help pass the child-care initiative.On Nov. 7, vote “yes” for Referendum 1A. For less than $1 per week for most households, we can’t afford not to do this. Kelly CoffeyEagle County Cares for KidsInvest in tomorrowMy son was born 5 weeks premature, and during his first year, received services for early childhood development. Referendum 1A will help to secure such services in the future for children in my son’s situation. For some of us, like me, we are paying back to the community that helped us by voting for Referendum 1A. For others, they may be paying it forward. For those who don’t expect to have children, they should consider voting for Referendum 1A because investment in our community’s children today will be an investment in the future of our community tomorrow.Noel FalkAvonVail, Colorado


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