Aspen, Pitkin County discuss nonprofits’ funding models | AspenTimes.com

Aspen, Pitkin County discuss nonprofits’ funding models

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Pitkin County and Aspen leaders advocated Tuesday night for establishing a more solid funding model – one that could take the form of an increased mill levy – to sustain health and human service entities in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The suggestions came after a presentation to county commissioners and the City Council by officials from four valley nonprofits that benefit from county and city government subsidies. The officials said the economic downturn has many such organizations worried about their finances.

Aspen Legal Services, the Family Visitor Program, the Aspen Homeless Shelter and YouthZone all praised the county and city for past support for their resource pools, but stressed that more money will be needed in the future.

Medford Leake, director of the homeless shelter, said the organization needs stronger funding to address its winter-only accommodation and subpar living conditions.

“One 62-year-old told me he felt like a cockroach,” Leake said.

Commissioner Michael Owsley and Councilman Steve Skadron said it might be a good idea to form a relationship between the shelter and the Marolt Housing Fund to establish transitional housing for people in the shelter.

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That idea came from budget projections given by city and county housing officials.

But Commissioner Jack Hatfield expressed concerns about the Marolt Housing Fund, which is projecting a large deficit in coming years. In 2017, it appears the debt will be $1.5 million if nothing is changed.

“This graph is a serious, serious problem,” Hatfield said, pointing to a line graph presented by housing officials. The current budget for the Marolt Housing Fund is positive.

Most budgets projected an air of optimism despite the recession, including an upbeat tone in the health and human services sector. Mayor Mick Ireland said that, although the needs for the program among the valley community will remain, he was sensing an upswing in the economy.

Hatfield and Commissioner Rachel Richards, though, warned that if three tax-slashing initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot are passed, that optimism will end quickly. They encouraged voters to say no to them.

The three measures, amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, would impose strict borrowing, taxing and fee increase limits on state and local government.

“We’ll get put back in the Dark Ages,” Hatfield said. “… I just find it hard to believe that we live in a society where someone would propose this.”

The state Legislature issued a projection over the summer saying that, if all three pass, the K-12 education budget will consume 99 percent of Colorado’s money, leaving very little for other programs like health and human services.

ahedge@aspentimes.com