The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

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October 19, 2012
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It's all academic: Vote 'yes' on question 2B

No one wants to be in the unenviable position of voting against a tax, any kind of tax, that would support our schools, teachers and the youth they educate.

Likewise, we certainly support the 0.3 percent sales-tax increase that is being proposed to city voters in the Nov. 6. election. But we do have concerns.

Modeled after a similar-type program in Steamboat Springs, the tax revenue would be managed by an independent, appointed board. This seven-member board would distribute funds from the tax to what school district administrators deem the most pressing financial needs through a granting process.

The school district and its nonprofit fundraising arm, the Aspen Education Foundation, believe the tax would help offset the state's education cuts - both current and future. Projected budget deficits from now until 2016 fall into a range of $660,000 to $980,000 annually, depending on the year.

The tax increase is expected to bring in as much as $1.75 million into Aspen School District coffers annually.

It sounds like a good idea. And we believe it is.

Our concerns, however, are how the funds will be overseen until the tax sunsets after four years. We don't want to see the foundation, the district or the newly created independent board - simply because the money is there - support pet projects or spend for the sake of spending.

We won't call it a leap of faith - it's more like a skip - but we trust that those charged with managing these public dollars will employ checks and balances for the sales tax so it will have its desired effect, and support those programs that are at the most risk during this financial crisis: electives, school buses, outdoor education, athletics and reading specialists, among others.

Should the economy bounce back and the state's cuts are not as steep, we expect the entities involved make their best efforts to save some of the tax revenues and not feel the need to spend it all.

As individuals and families have become more conservative with their spending during the Great Recession, we expect the same from Aspen School District and Aspen Education Foundation, so long as it is not to the detriment of our education system.

This is an important tax, one that will push the city sales tax up to 9.3 percent. Aspen retail shoppers currently pay 2.1 percent in sales taxes to the city, 2.9 to the state, 0.4 to Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, and another 3.6 percent to Pitkin County. An outing at a local grocery store or restaurant might not seem like much, but over the long haul, another 0.3 adds up.

However, we strongly believe this is in the best interest of our community. Educating our youth should be a top priority of our residents - whether you are parents, empty-nesters, or childless. We all benefit from a strong public-school system - it encourages families to move here, improves property values, and, most important, puts our youth on the right track to become productive members of society.

We also know this tax cannot be the only thing this community does to help bridge the shortfall. A "yes" vote should be a reminder that giving back to our local schools needs to be a priority, just as our community gives millions to support art, culture, open space and health care.

We trust that the foundation and district will be judicious in its disbursements of its funds, but it can only happen if Aspen residents approve the sales-tax increase. On Nov. 6, vote yes on ballot question 2B.


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The Aspen Times Updated Oct 19, 2012 06:44AM Published Oct 19, 2012 12:24AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.