Governor taps Routt County’s Cari Hermacinski for state granting advisory group
Steamboat Springs — Gov. John Hickenlooper has named Routt County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Cari Hermacinski to serve on a board of state government department heads and local officials from around the state that makes recommendations on energy impact grants that fund new community buildings and municipal water projects and preserve historic buildings and more around Colorado.
Hermacinski said Aug. 29 her appointment to the Energy/Mineral Impact Assistance Advisory Fund Committee won’t be official until she clears a Senate confirmation hearing to be held sometime during the 2017 legislative session.
But in the meantime, she’ll be taking part in committee discussions. The committee makes recommendations to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) on grant requests from communities tackling infrastructure projects. The source of funding is severance taxes remitted to the state by mining and energy extraction companies.
“It’s right up my alley,” Hermacinski said. “I grew up in an energy town (Craig), and I still live in an energy town (Steamboat Springs).”
Locally, Routt County and Oak Creek sought a grant to help fund improvements to the town’s water system during the July meeting of the committee. And Moffat County sought funds to help repair the Swinging Bridge in Browns Park.
“Our new fiber optic project (linking government with community institutions like Yampa Valley Electric Association, schools and Yampa Valley Medical Center) is half built with DOLA funds,” Hermacinski said.
In another era, the city of Steamboat Springs tapped into energy impact funding to build its community center on the west side of town. The town of Yampa is currently using the same funding source to help restore the historic Crossans’ Market to house town offices.
Hermacinski comes onto the committee, chaired by DOLA Executive Director Irv Halter, at a time when funding available for the grants may be undergoing a significant adjustment.
Commonly, the state legislature uses some of the severance taxes to fund DOLA but also to varying degrees, depending upon the state’s fiscal health, to balance the state budget.
The staff of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee pointed out in its budget briefing summary for fiscal year 2016-17 that 50 percent of all severance tax revenues and more than 40 percent of the state’s share of federal mineral lease revenues are distributed by DOLA to local governments. However, 2015-16 receipts to the Local Government Severance Tax Fund were projected to fall from $199.4 million the previous cycle to $104.2 million.
Compounding the situation next year, Hermacinski said, is a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in the spring of 2016 finding in favor of energy companies that filed suit claiming that the state had inappropriately denied them the ability to deduct the value of equipment from their severance tax bills.
“There are going to be big rebates,” as a result, Hermacinski said.
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