Opinion | County commissioners: Your frequently asked questions answered regarding Keystone Incorporation | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | County commissioners: Your frequently asked questions answered regarding Keystone Incorporation

Tamara Pogue, Joshua Blanchard and Elisabeth Lawrence
Summit County commissioners
Pictured are Summit County Commissioners Tamara Pogue, left, Josh Blanchard, center, Elisabeth Lawrence, right.
Summit County commissioners

For nearly a year, Summit County has worked with staff and consultants — alongside proponents of Keystone’s incorporation — to offer a look at the financial and operational needs of Keystone should it run independently of Summit County government. Next week, voters in Keystone will make the final decision.

As a board, we chose to remain neutral on this question — to avoid an appearance of conflict and because we believe in and respect the will of Keystone voters to make an informed decision on their own.

Recently, however, we have fielded several calls from voters in Keystone asking us to respond to information being provided by proponents. We wish to provide more insight into the financial data and the value of services provided to Keystone.

First, a disclaimer: Summit County does not break out services or programming provided to specific areas. In most cases, they serve the entire community such as public health, human services, wastewater treatment, libraries, wildfire mitigation, and childcare — to name a few. They’re funded by taxpayers across the county and provided by Summit County government to all residents, including Keystone.

In Keystone specifically, building inspections alone cost over $100,000 per year in staff time. Our road and bridge department spends more than $350,000 on maintaining roads in Keystone. Summit County Sheriff’s Office spends substantial time and expense responding to more than 1,500 calls for service in 2022, spending 175 hours per week servicing Keystone. Wildfire mitigation costs in Keystone are substantially higher than most areas in Summit County due to the high number of hazardous fuels —costs which are borne by all of Summit County and benefit everyone.

As for taxes generated, about $4 million in sales taxes goes to Summit County, while the remaining $4.1 to $4.5 million go to the county via property taxes, which will continue to fund the services mentioned above such as wildfire mitigation, public health, libraries, open space, public safety, and more. Additional property taxes collected by the county are distributed in full to the school district, Summit Fire & EMS, and more. The services funded by property taxes will continue to be collected by the county and made available to residents — incorporated or not.

We respect the right of proponents to provide their own financial studies, which do indeed show a small surplus after incorporation. A town of Keystone would keep sales taxes and some other funds distributed to municipalities.

However, voters need to ask questions about the assumptions in these studies:

Would 7 staff members be able to service a world-class ski resort community of more than 1,000 full-time residents and a seasonal population of hundreds of thousands? Is the small budget for housing sufficient for its workforce? Questions around infrastructure, public safety, administrative offices, and cultural amenities are also important to ask. Finally, and most importantly, would the small surplus be sufficient in case of an emergency, or would taxes and fees need to be raised?

These are important questions for voters, and — except for incorrect claims made during the campaign by proponents — our respective numbers largely align.

We’re grateful for the dialogue between county and proponents of incorporation. It has helped us as a board look inward as we consider what we could do better for Keystone. This is why we worked with CDOT last summer on an agreement to spend $300,000 to design and engineer the move of the existing bus stop at Rasor Drive, which CDOT requested to improve sight lines for traffic on Highway 6, an issue which residents have sought relief for some time.

We know that controlling your own destiny as a town feels like an option that will lead to better representation. But it comes at a substantial cost for residents, who must ask whether this additional layer of government is worth the expense, and if the outcome and costs are clear.

As a public entity, our finances are audited yearly. We continue to welcome questions from anyone in the community. 

Elisabeth Lawrence, Joshua Blanchard and Tamara Pogue are commissioners for Summit County government.

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