Aspen voters cement half-cent open space tax
With 50.34% of votes counted at 9:04 p.m., the city of Aspen will almost certainly continue to collect the 0.5% sales tax that funds the purchase and maintenance of recreational space with 2,028 votes for ballot issue 2B and only 755 votes against.
The tax was set to expire Dec. 31, 2025, but will now in all probability extend in perpetuity. The city will continue to collect a total of 1.5% sales tax designated for parks and open spaces, as it has been since 2001.
More than 30 parks and playgrounds and 2,100 square acres of open space and trails fall under the purview of the city of Aspen’s Parks & Recreation department. Smuggler Mountain Open Space, Tiehack Bridge and Sky Mountain Park are just some of the spaces that receive funds from what is known as the “half cent” tax.
The city also operates the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System, one of the nation’s free cross-country ski trails with over 90km of maintained trail.
“From a Nordic perspective, it validates all the hard work the staff of the parks and open spaces have put in over the years. Since it’s a continuation of an existing tax, it makes it more stable for budgeting for what they want to do, which I’m hoping will be more expanded access to trails in summer and winter,” says John Wilkinson, president of the Aspen Nordic Council. He has held that position for at least a decade.
The estimated fiscal spending for the city of Aspen in 2022 is $188,580,000, up 58% from 2018. Spending is expected to continue the upward trajectory into 2024.
Pitkin County also has a property tax that funds Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. In 2016, voters reauthorized that tax through 2040. Critics of 2B say that tax, in combination with Aspen’s existing 1% sales tax for parks and open spaces, meet the community’s needs for recreation space funding.
Voters first approved the 0.5% sales tax in 2000, when 63% of votes cast were in favor of its adoption. It went into effect in 2001. The city implemented the 1% sales tax designated for parks and open spaces when voters approved it in 1970.
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