Our view: Local measures deserve ’yes’ votes | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Local measures deserve ’yes’ votes

In recent weeks, we have offered recommendations on statewide ballot initiatives. Today, we will address local Issues 2A/2B, 5A and 7A:

Issues 2A and 2B: The Town of Hayden is proposing a 1% local sales tax to fund parks and recreation, specifically renovations and operations at the new Hayden community center. Passage of 2A would authorize the sales tax, and 2B would authorize the town to borrow money to pay for the renovation and operation of the center.

Our view: We recommend a “yes” vote on 2A and 2B. Approval would fund a proposal to turn Hayden’s previous high school into a community center that would offer after-school programs, a gymnasium, creative arts wing, vocational and technical training, other continuing education classes and family services. Earlier this year, the town agreed to buy the school from the Hayden School District.

At a glance

At issue: Routt County voters have several local ballot measures to consider on the November ballot.

Our view: We recommend ’yes’ votes affecting Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt voters.

Editorial Board

Logan Molen, publisher

Lisa Schlichtman, editor

George Danellis, community representative

Kevin Fisher, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

There is much to like about this proposal. The school is centrally located, would make use of an existing building, and would provide youths a positive space for after-school activities. Hayden is growing, and by proposing a sales tax dedicated to funding parks and recreation, the community is taking steps to invest in its near-term and long-term future. The only significant downside of 2A, we see, is the tax has no sunset.

The 1% sales tax is expected to generate $240,000 in its first year. Companion issue 2B would allow the city to increase its debt by $3.8 million, with a maximum repayment amount of $7.2 million. As today’s interest rates are at rock-bottom levels, there’s no better time to borrow money.

Hayden Mayor Tim Redmond has said a community survey indicated 87% of respondents were in support of the measure. At a time when Americans are growing more isolated and divided, a central gathering spot that unites residents around activities and services for all ages is something that we can support.

Issue 5A: South Routt School District is proposing to extend an existing mill levy to fund capital improvements, facility and bus maintenance, and computers and broadband access, as well as secure matching state grants. 5A would extend an existing 9.111-mill levy for 12 years, through 2032.

Our view: We recommend a “yes” vote on 5A. It’s important to note that 5A is not a property-tax increase and would only extend the existing mill levy originally approved in 2000, which generated $816,068 in 2020. South Routt School District residents have previously indicated a willingness to pay extra for local education. The new levy, like the current one, would cost residents $9.11 per year per $100,000 in assessed valuation.

Proponents also indicate that extending the mill levy would free up $200,000 per year that can be devoted to supporting teacher salaries. District residents in 2018 approved a property tax referendum that added $20.99 per year per $100,000 in assessed valuation to specifically pay for increased staff salaries. Proponents of 5A say more needs to be done as South Routt salaries continue to lag behind neighboring districts, making it harder to retain qualified staff.

Issue 7A: The Colorado River Water Conservation District is proposing to increase property taxes by $1.90 per year per $100,000 in assessed valuation to fund programs and services to protect Western Colorado water.

Our view: We recommend a “yes” vote on 7A. Numerous plans for the diversion and non-regional utilization of Western Colorado’s water are under discussion. We believe that good, clean water is paramount to our region, and we appreciate the value this 15-county conservation district can provide for personal, business and recreational uses.

7A would generate up to $4.97 million in 2021 for the district to spend on protecting Western Slope water supplies for farmers, ranchers and residents, and maintaining river levels and water quality. The tax revenue would roughly double the district’s current budget. The measure, which has gained bipartisan support, explicitly states that no funds will be used to fallow irrigated ag land. Proponents pledge that the new revenues would not go towards new staffing.

We do see flaws in 7A’s financial oversight protocols. For example, while the proposal does promise an annual independent financial audit, the district is currently governed by an appointed, not elected, board. County commissioners in each of the 15 counties in the district make those appointments, so while there is local representation, it is a step removed from direct public oversight. However, we believe the district can overcome these issues by guaranteeing full transparency and accountability. We suggest each board member review the annual audits and share the findings with their county commissioners and constituents. As the proposal stands now, voters have only their trust in the water board to ensure that the district will be prudent in allocating millions of new taxpayer dollars. Let’s make sure that trust is well placed by ensuring wide public awareness of all budgetary matters.

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