City’s concerns delay tax district decision
Questions from the city of Aspen have temporarily stalled plans to let voters decide on funding the Aspen Historical Society.The nonprofit would like to ask voters this fall to implement a district for collecting a special property tax. The tax is expected to support 64 percent of the historical society’s operations in 2007.Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday were slated to approve the special district, a step that must take place before voters can decide. But in a letter dated May 4 the city raises questions about the proposed plan.County commissioners delayed their decision until their next meeting on May 25, hoping that the city’s concerns can be resolved.Primarily, the city is concerned the Aspen Historical Parks and Recreation District will affect funding for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Because there is no special taxing district just for historical sites available under state statute, the proposed district must be listed as a parks and recreation district, which includes historical sites. It may be a confusing category for voters, but Aspen Historical Society Executive Director Georgia Hanson said it’s the correct legal vehicle to use.The city is concerned that Great Outdoors Colorado funds would be affected by the new district. GOCO uses money from the state lottery to give out grants for parks and recreation.Aspen received $58,000 last year from GOCO funds for parks department capital improvements, according to the city’s letter. The city now wants to stipulate that if voters pass this new taxing district, the society will never apply to receive GOCO funds.Hanson said the historical society would simply collect the tax for funding and is not interested in taking funds from local parks and recreation. Cultural organizations can, under state statute, collect a sales tax for funding, but she said that is something all of Aspen’s arts nonprofits may be interested in pursuing in the future.Pitkin County Commissioners Patti Clapper and Mick Ireland agreed that those issues should be resolved before the taxing district is approved.”We knew there was some unfinished business,” Hanson said after the meeting. “I’m disappointed it didn’t happen today, but it’s also critical that everyone be in support of the final decision.”The proposed district includes approximately 6,700 voters and $1.6 billion in assessed property values. The proposed levy is 0.03 mills, meaning $2.38 for each $100,000 of assessed property value.The historical society anticipates collecting $487,489 in 2007 if the district is approved by voters.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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