Aspen Education Foundation still weighing sales tax idea
ASPEN – The Aspen Education Foundation continues to explore the idea of putting a question about sales tax for education on the November ballot.
AEF interim director Robin Hamill told the Aspen Board of Education on Monday that the nonprofit organization – which serves as the public schools’ fundraising arm – has asked for a work session with the Aspen City Council to discuss the measure.
AEF is considering asking Aspen voters to approve a 0.35 percent sales tax increase. The hope is to inject an additional $1.75 million into school coffers annually in an effort to alleviate the ongoing school budget crisis.
“Nobody is going to say they don’t believe in public education, but the question is how far are they willing to go to support it,” Hamill said, noting that AEF is no longer considering a temporary diversion of real estate transfer tax funds collected by the city of Aspen, as city attorneys have deemed that move a violation of Colorado’s TABOR amendment. “We still believe a sales tax is the appropriate solution.”
School board members, while intrigued by the prospect of a new funding source, remained cautious in their support of the sales tax idea. Many expressed concern about the timing and whether the measure would get voter support.
“It’s not a question of if – it’s a question of when,” said school board President Elizabeth Parker. “When we do this, we want to be successful, and I am not convinced that, by this fall, the public will understand how bad we need these funds and stand up and vote for it.”
Hamill noted that November’s election is a presidential election, which will likely yield a large turnout. Because of this, he and his associates believe they cannot afford to wait until the next election cycle.
If a tax or funding measure is to be placed on the November ballot, the language for it would need to be approved by August. No date has been set for the City Council work session. AEF representatives will return to the school board on June 4 with a more solid marketing plan in an effort to secure the board’s support.
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