Crown Mtn Park in El Jebel will seek property tax hike from voters

The U13 Aspen Lacrosse Club boys warm up before playing agains Grand Valley last May at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. The park administration says it needs more tax revenues to cover operations and maintenance.
Aspen Times file photo |

Midvalley voters will be asked this spring to approve a property tax increase to support replacement of existing infrastructure, operations and maintenance, and the building of a reserve fund at the popular Crown Mountain Park.

The park and recreation district’s board of directors voted 4-1 Wednesday night to pop the question to voters in a May 8 election where ballots will be mailed in advance.

Becky Wagner, executive director of the park and recreation district, said the existing tax isn’t enough to adequately fund the operations and maintenance of the park, which hosts an estimated 260,000 visitors annually and is growing.

“We’re Band-Aiding everything right now and pretty soon that Band-Aid is going to break,” Wagner said. “If we don’t get more funding, it can’t be an athletic facility. It just can’t.”

Crown Mountain Park hosts both passive uses — such as a walking path and dog park — and athletic fields for Little League baseball, youth and adult soccer and a successful lacrosse tournament.

The decision to seek the tax hike came after a short but spirited debate among the board. Board member Katie Schwoerer, who opposed the ballot question, said she wanted a sunset provision that would mean the tax increase would expire after a certain number of years without voter approval to renew it.

Schwoerer also argued that the board should continue searching for alternative funding sources rather than approaching voters for a 1.95 mill levy.

That proposed tax hike would add $14 per each $100,000 of a home’s actual value each year and about $57 per $100,000 on commercial property.

Schwoerer’s proposals were met with stiff opposition from other board members and the staff.

Wagner opposed the sunset provision because a financial analysis shows the additional funds are needed indefinitely.

“We need this for eternity or we’re screwed,” Wagner said.

Board members were frustrated with the suggestion that other funding sources should be sought because they said they felt all avenues had been explored.

“No one wants to partner with us and we need to do this,” board Chairman Rich Pavcek said.

Board member Robert Hubbell served as a peacemaker of sorts and tried to keep the comments from getting personal.

“I believe we should allow this to go to the voters and let them decide if they want to fund this park,” Hubbell said.

The ballots will be mailed out around April 20, according to Wagner. She said she wants to make sure voters realize it will be a different ballot than the town of Basalt will make for its election this spring.

The vast park and recreation district stretches from the Eagle-Garfield county line to Old Snowmass and includes portions of Missouri Heights and the Fryingpan Valley as well as Emma and rural areas of Pitkin County.

The election also will be held for three board seats on the five-member board. Pavcek and board member Ted Bristol cannot run again because of term limits; they have served two four-year terms. Schwoerer said she isn’t seeking re-election. Interested persons can contact Wagner at the Crown Mountain office for information on qualifications for candidates and how to get on the ballot.