Basalt 3A: Voters say yes to property tax extension for downtown projects, affordable housing
A ballot question in Basalt to issue new bonds and maintain property tax levels for a variety of projects cruised to victory Tuesday night in Eagle and Pitkin counties.
Question 3A had the support of 848 voters while 325 were opposed, according to updated results Wednesday morning. That’s a margin of 72% to 28%.
Basalt Mayor Bill Kane called it a good outcome for the community.
“We just have some positive momentum going on in the community,” he said. “I think people are feeling it.”
Kane credited the town government staff for doing a “great job of laying the foundation for this vote.” They provided information through open house meetings, mailers and other avenues to educate voters on the issue.
Basalt town manager Ryan Mahoney added, “I think it speaks to the community’s trust in the council and the process.”
A key was avoiding an increase in taxes. Basalt has two bonds that will be paid off in 2023. Since the bonds are getting paid off, property taxes amounting to about $950,000 annually would have expired. However, the town asked voters to keep those property taxes in place to pay off new bonds that would be issued for new projects, but there will be no tax increase.
The town sought permission to issue $18 million in new bonds and extend the existing property tax to pay them off at a maximum amount of $23 million, including interest. The taxes raise about $950,000 annually.
Basalt officials centered their campaign on the fact that no “new” taxes would result from a “yes” vote on 3A. While it is true, it’s also nuanced. Taxes would have been lower in another couple of years with a “no” vote.
Kane said the fact that no new taxes will be required probably swung the vote.
“I think it speaks volumes to people’s confidence in the town,” he said.
The town will pursue projects in three categories with the $18 million in bonding: streetscape, sidewalk and related infrastructure improvements on Midland Avenue; affordable housing projects; and environmentally friendly projects such as electric-vehicle charging stations and solar development.
The work on Midland Avenue, Basalt’s main street, is estimated to cost $11.5 million. The town would pursue grants along with funding from the bonds.
About $6 million from the bonds is being targeted for affordable housing projects. The town would partner with other governments and nonprofits to leverage the funds.
Another $2 million will be earmarked for “green initiatives.”
Kane said work on Midland Avenue could begin almost immediately. The first step will be assessing the condition of underground utilities that are roughly 85 years old.
For affordable housing relief, the town will look to acquire land, then work with government and nonprofit partners to build housing.
“We’re going to raise 6 million bucks but we want that $6 million to be leveraged,” he said.
Mahoney said work would begin almost immediately. The town government will start the process on bond sales on Nov. 9. In addition, the assessment on the Midland Avenue infrastructure will begin.
The town will also hire a real estate agent to seek land to purchase for affordable housing. In addition, the town has already started the process to find a “viable spot” for a solar project, Mahoney said.
Kane was settling in for dinner when the first results favorable to the town were released shortly after 7 p.m.
“I think I’ll drink an extra glass of wine tonight,” he said.
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