Commissioners outline ballot issues at forum
FRISCO – The issue most discussed by the 60 people attending a forum Thursday on Nov. 4 ballot questions was the county’s mill levy extension to fund recycling, open space, a community care clinic and water storage.
The Summit County commissioners, empanelled as experts on the questions, outlined the pros and cons of the 11 ballot issues.
People asked detailed questions about County Referred Measure 1A which would extend an existing mill levy by 12 years, raising a set $1.6 million each year for the four project areas.
The recycling aspect of the mill levy could double the life of the landfill by buying the equipment necessary to divert more trash from being buried.
The funds would not be spent until collected so the county wouldn’t have to sell bonds for capital improvements, said Commissioner Bill Wallace. The commissioners also explained that, while this is one of two mill levies Summit County has in place for open space acquisitions, this mill levy is adjusted annually to bring in just the $1.6 million.
Commissioners don’t want voters to get county referendum 1A and state referendum A mixed up, as they both address water.
The state referendum – about which none of the commissioners even tried to hide their bias – would allow the state to spend $2 billion on water projects, none of which are outlined in the referendum, and two of which must be under way by 2005.
The Colorado Water Authority already has the authority to fund up to $500 million for water projects, said Commissioner Tom Long.
Another issue prompting citizen questions was state Amendment 33, which would allow video lottery terminals in each of the state’s five dog and horse tracks.
Revenue generated from the machines would be spent on parks and open space, with up to $25 million dedicated to marketing the state to tourists.
Supporters say that since voters got rid of a tourism tax in 1992, the state has lost the power to compete nationally for destination visitors.
Those against the amendment – primarily the casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek – say most of the revenue will go to an England-based company, the state will have to pay up to 39 percent of the revenue generated to install and maintain the machines, that increased traffic on the roads will further degrade their quality and that the amendment doesn’t address the impact to local communities.
“Tourism is the No. 2 industry in the state without the tax,” said Commissioner Gary Lindstrom. “And people in Colorado (in 1992) spoke loudly when they said they wanted no tax money to be spent on tourism in Colorado.”
Long cited the same argument for ballot question 4A from the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which asks voters if the district can keep excess revenue rather than return it to constituents as required under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
Long said that TABOR forces the state, municipalities and special districts that earn more revenue than they did the year before to return it to citizens, or ask voters for permission to keep it.
If voters approve Referendum 4A, the money could be used to help repair 78 reservoirs in the state that are under safety restrictions.
Commissioners also outlined county referendum 1B, which would ban smoking in public places in unincorporated Summit County. Lindstrom cited employees’ health as the main reason for putting the question to voters, and noted that it wouldn’t go into effect until the towns had time to determine how their residents voted before deciding whether to ban smoking.
Amendment 32, the state property tax question, also came in for questioning. The amendment would roll back features of the existing Gallagher Amendment and allow residential property taxes to rise slowly to take pressure off commercial property taxes.
“If you feel a property tax break would encourage business, vote for this,” Lindstrom said. “If you’re concerned about property tax rate changes, vote against it.”
There was little discussion about a lodging tax in Frisco or proposals to alter or eliminate term limits for the school, Frisco Sanitation and Red, White and Blue Fire districts.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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