Mind made up on fall ballot? | AspenTimes.com

Mind made up on fall ballot?

Allyn Harvey

Chomping on the bit to have your say about rail, buses, highway funding and open space acquisition?

If the answer is yes, then Monday is an important day, because it is the official kickoff of the 1999 fall election. Early voting begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Pitkin County Courthouse Annex.

Early voting has been around for several years, says Pitkin County Clerk Silvia Davis, and is open to voters throughout the county. Anyone who is interested can stop into the clerk’s office before 4:30 p.m. and fill out a ballot.

Most voters in the county face a relatively light ballot this year, although there are two important questions that need to answered.

The Open Space and Trails program is asking for a 10-year reauthorization of its authority to levy property taxes that are used to purchase and maintain open space. It is also asking voters for a 1.25 mil increase, beginning in 2000 and ending in 2009, in the 2.5 mils currently collected for the program. (A mil is a 10th of a penny.)

Referendum 1A is a tax question, so it is printed in capital letters and written in a way that is difficult to understand, because it must comply with the TABOR (taxpayer bill of rights) amendment to the state constitution.

Voters living throughout the county will also take part in the statewide referendum on highway funding. Referendum A is asking voters for to allow the state to borrow up to $1.7 billion to spend on 28 high-priority highway projects.

If voters give the nod to Referendum A, the state will issue “revenue anticipation notes.” They are different than standard bonds because repayment is tied directly to anticipated tax and fee collections and federal highway funding. If taxes drop off and the federal government scraps some of its funding for the state, note holders will be left out in cold, according to state transportation officials.

The Snowmass Canyon section of Highway 82 will be completed a year earlier if Referendum A passes, according the Colorado Department of Transportation.

County voters are also being asked if the county should amend the home rule charter on public notice requirements and emergency ordinances.

Voters in the city of Aspen have a lot more on their plate. In addition to the county and state referendums, they must decide on rail, buses, the purchase of Bass Park and how to develop it, whether the city can keep $158,275 in excess property taxes, sale of 37 acres at Burlingame Ranch, an amendment to the home rule charter on open space replacement, and three advisory questions on transportation policy.

The rail question, Initiative 200, is a TABOR funding question on whether the city should be authorized to borrow up to $20 million for the light-rail system envisioned for the Entrance to Aspen. A yes vote on the question will not raise taxes. The money would be repaid out of the city’s general funds and parking revenue.

The bus question, Referendum 2C, is also a TABOR funding question. It asks if the city should allowed to borrow up to $16 million to build a busway across the Thomas and Marolt open space. The light-rail proposal in Initiative 200 would also use the Thomas and Marolt properties, which the voters approved in 1996. Again, no new taxes would be required to pay back the money.

Bass Park was purchased earlier this year with $3.4 million from the affordable housing fund. There are four questions – two TABOR questions and two advisory questions – seeking voter direction on how to deal with the purchase.

Referendum 2A asks voters if they want to raise the sales tax just over two-tenths of a percent over four years to keep the land entirely as a park. Referendum 2B asks if the city should raise the sales tax just over one-tenth of a percent so half the park can be developed as affordable housing and the other half kept as a park. Both are TABOR questions.

Referendum 2F asks voters if the entire park should be given over to affordable housing, and Referendum 2E asks for authorization to sell the park on the private market.

Referendum 2G asks voters for permission to sell 37 acres of the 219-acre Burlingame Ranch to recover housing/day-care funds used in the purchase. Referendum 2H amends open-space policy. And referendums 2I, 2J and 2K ask for direction on transportation policy.

Voters will also be asked to decide board elections for the RE-1 school district and Colorado Mountain College. RE-1 is also asking for permission to raise an additional $2.2 million in property taxes.

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