Historical society hoping for help from Pitkin County | AspenTimes.com

Historical society hoping for help from Pitkin County

Eben Harrell

Despite facing a long-term deficit, Pitkin County still has plenty of money to spend this year, a county official said.The extra money could mean good news for the financially struggling Aspen Historical Society, which will likely ask for a one- or two-year bailout to keep its operations running.It has been well publicized that Pitkin County, struggling to cope with labor costs that are increasing faster than its revenue and a five-year property tax set to expire in 2006, is facing a long-term budget deficit. But it’s also true that the county still has money available for one-time expenditures each year.”The county is conservative in its revenue budget, so occasionally we get more money than we expect,” assistant county manager Debbie Quinn said. “We can’t take on recurring expenses with this money, so it is usually used for one-time grants and expenses.”As an example, Quinn pointed to the Payment in lieu of Taxes fund (PILT), a federal program that gives money to counties that have federal land in their boundaries. She said money from the fund has been inconsistent, so Pitkin County budgets each year conservatively.Last year, the county budgeted for $270,000 in PILT funds, but it received $555,000. So it now has an unexpected windfall of $285,000 that may be available for one-time expenditures.The Aspen Historical Society hopes such a windfall will breathe new life into its struggling operations. The nonprofit group oversees the Wheeler-Stallard House, the Holden-Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum, and the ghost towns of Independence and Ashcroft. The society is working to solve its financial woes by establishing its own taxing district, a process that is at least a year off.In the interim, the society will ask the county for a one-time bailout to support operations. Society board President Georgia Hanson said an exact figure for the bailout has not been established, but it will fall somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000.Quinn said the county is in the process of determining the extent of this year’s windfall. County financial managers will make a presentation to the commissioners in a public meeting on Oct. 12.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com

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