November ballot could prove to be a handful | SummitDaily.com
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November ballot could prove to be a handful

Jane Stebbins

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit County’s Nov. 4 ballot could fill up with questions ranging from smoking in public places to term limits.

But nothing’s official yet, said county election clerk Vicki Stecklein.

No one has submitted the paperwork necessary to get questions on the ballot. People have until Sept. 10 to get their questions certified, and many are busy crafting the verbiage to get them on the ballot.

Arguably the most contentious issue locally could be a question asking voters if Summit County should ban smoking in public places, including restaurants and bars.

Such a ban would pertain only to the unincorporated areas, chief among them Copper and Keystone. Supporters hope town councils will see how much support there is for the ban in their jurisdictions and follow suit with their own ordinances.

The county also might ask voters to retain a property tax that sunsets in January. The tax was first approved in 1986 and funds generated from it built the Summit County Justice Center; voters approved it again in 1993 to build the County Commons. If voters approve it again, funds could go toward a community health care facility, recycling, a water project and parks.

Frisco residents will likely get to vote on a lodging tax. The town is the only one in Summit County that does not have one – Dillon and Silverthorne assess a 2 percent tax, and Breckenridge, a 2.4 percent tax. Frisco needs the money as it faces declining revenues, in the double-digit range some months.

The bulk of the funds would go toward recreational amenities, multipurpose facilities and open space purchases. The rest would likely be used for advertising, marketing and special events.

A variety of questions might ask voters to repeal or change term limits, as well. At the county level, Assessor Denise Steiskal, Treasurer Larry Gilliland and Sheriff Joe Morales stand to lose their jobs if term limits are not repealed. The Board of County Commissioners has yet to see a proposal asking to put the issue on the ballot.

The Frisco Sanitation District might put a question asking the same for its board, and the Red, White and Blue Fire Department is drafting a question to keep limits, but extend them, for its board members.

At the state level, Referendum A will ask voters to approve $2 billion in water bonds to increase the size of water storage facilities, lining irrigation ditches so less water is lost through seepage and repairing aging water storage facilities.

Without it, Colorado will be ill-prepared for the next drought while the state loses its share of Colorado River water to other western states.

Opponents, including the Colorado River Water Conservation District and many other Western Slope entities, say it’s nothing more than a water grab for the Front Range, especially since mitigation for diverted water is not guaranteed.

Another question likely to be on the ballot is whether five horse and dog tracks in Loveland, Commerce City, Aurora, Pueblo and Colorado Springs can install video lottery terminals.

Video lottery terminals are similar to slot machines, but they accept only paper money and pay out paper tickets that are redeemed for cash. They offer games such as video poker and keno.

Opponents say the machines would cripple the gaming industry in Central City and Black Hawk; proponents cite the money the state would generate.

Wembley USA, which would install the machines, could make up to $60 million a year. Racetrack owners would collect 39 percent of the gross revenues off 2,500 machines, while the state will get 61 percent. Of that, up to $25 million could go to support tourism.

Another ballot question could ask voters to repeal the Gallagher amendment, which was approved by voters in 1982.

Gallagher requires commercial property owners to pay 55 percent of all property taxes, with residential property paying the remaining 45 percent. The commercial tax rate is fixed at 29 percent of the assessed value, while the residential rate varies to keep the ratio at 55-45 percent. Colorado doesn’t have a large commercial property base, and the value of residential property has increased substantially more than has commercial property in the past 20 years. To hold the ratio constant, residential rates have declined dramatically.

Complicating the issue is Gallagher’s role with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), which imposes revenue and spending limits on government and prevents tax increases without voter approval.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District plans to ask voters to “de-Bruce,” – eliminating its TABOR restrictions – which would allow the board to keep its current mill levy levels and work toward better protection of the Western Slope’s water.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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