As the Aspen City Council’s budget review wrapped up Tuesday, council members discussed the repurposing of the Wheeler Opera House’s real estate transfer tax funds as well as grants for local nonprofits.
In the 2014 budget, funding for various local nonprofits in Aspen — split between the General Fund; Parks and Open Space; the Wheeler Opera House; and Health and Human Services — rounds out to about $1.3 million. There is a new emphasis on detox services, with funding increasing from $65,000 in 2013 to $76,800 in 2014.
“Detox has obviously been singled out as something that’s really important in a recreational town,” council member Adam Frisch said.
Also during Tuesday’s work session, council member Dwayne Romero addressed the consideration to repurpose the Wheeler Opera House’s real estate transfer tax funds. Noting that it’s an issue for the 2015 budget, he said repurposing of funds would help support the broader arts community. Mayor Steve Skadron made similar comments last week.
“The arts community ... is the lifeblood of Aspen,” Romero said, adding that Aspen is somewhat hamstrung by limiting the funds to the Wheeler.
By 2023, funds dedicated to the Wheeler from the real estate transfer tax are projected to show an ending balance in excess of $35 million. Any repurposing would be subject to a public vote. But before the public gets involved, Frisch said, the legality of such a move needs to be studied.
“Before we rile up us and the community on this pot of gold, ... there needs to be further discussion,” he said. “We do need to be careful about possibly losing the whole thing.”
The council will formally vote on the 2014 budget in the coming weeks.