Forest group looks at tax hike |

Forest group looks at tax hike

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY ” The local forest-health task force on Thursday will discuss a ballot proposal that would increase local funding to reduce the risk of wildfires that could threaten property and lives in Summit County.

At issue is Measure 1A, a property-tax increase on the November ballot that would raise about $5.9 million per year.

Under the county’s breakdown of that revenue, $500,000 ” the maximum allowable under state law ” would go into a wildfire fund, both for preventive logging and to pay for firefighting costs if there is a major blaze in the area.

Backers of the measure call it a public investment in Summit County’s future, but a handful of opponents claim it’s an unwarranted tax increase, with too much money going toward poorly identified general county expenses.

The discussion at the forest-health panel will focus on the cost of treating local forests, which far exceeds available state and federal funding. The local wildfire council has identified about 8,600 acres in need of thinning and logging, at an estimated cost of about $1,000 to $1,500 per acre.

The tax hike may have a tough time passing, given the country’s current economic woes, said Dave Cunningham, a consultant who has worked on several local ballot issues in previous elections.

Measure 1A bundles several different needs into one package, including open-space funding and additional revenue for the county’s general fund.

Some voters seem inclined to back open space funding but reject an increase for the county’s general coffers.

The wildfire component could be the key to the measure’s fate, according to Cunningham.

According to telephone surveys of local voters, the forest funding makes them more likely to support the measure, he said.

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