Aspen Historical Society counting on tax district |

Aspen Historical Society counting on tax district

Naomi Havlen

The Aspen Historical Society is putting together its plan to escape financial trouble by asking voters to approve a new taxing district this fall.

The society appeared before the Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday to give a quarterly financial report after the county agreed to grant the society $200,000 this year. President Georgia Hanson said new methods for tracking income and expenditures as the county requested is going well. She said the society will be ready to begin a public education campaign about the taxing district this summer.

Mark Fuller, who has been consulting with the society to create the district, said the lines will follow those of the Aspen School District. The mill levy will be 3/10ths of a mill, meaning about $12 for a piece of property worth $500,000.

At that level, the society anticipates that the first year’s revenue will total $490,000.

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“That’s sufficient to meet the society’s budget needs as they currently stand, plus some additional revenue for projects in the future,” Fuller said. “It is meant to maintain the status quo.”

Based in the Wheeler-Stallard House in Aspen’s West End, the historical society manages sites around the upper valley, including the ghost towns of Independence and Ashcroft, the old lift at the bottom of Lift 1A on Aspen Mountain and the Holden-Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum.

The Aspen Historical Society has been in financial straits for several years, following the failed tenures of two executive directors.

Since hiring longtime local Hanson as executive director three years ago, the historical society has reconstituted its board of directors and aggressively pursued a grassroots strategy of increasing local membership.

When commissioners noted that voters might support a slightly larger percentage so that the historical society can expand its services, Hanson noted that she’s aiming to get as much voter support as she can this time around.

“We need unequivocal support including from all other nonprofits, so I’m not comfortable going for any pie in the sky,” she said. “It’s bare bones, so we should be able to ensure the safety and the history of our organization.”

Hanson said for future projects she’d like to embark on a capital campaign, getting support and raising funds independently. “We didn’t want to overreach, because we have more concerns about the issue passing than explaining our future ventures,” Fuller said.

The plans for the tax district should arrive in front of the Pitkin County commissioners within a month and then appear on the Nov. 1 ballot.

The society estimates that $98,000 will go into its campaign for the tax, including items like mass mailers and other public education.

In addition to the county’s grant, the city of Aspen awarded the society an “emergency grant” of $76,000 late last year.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is

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