New tax could fund next Town Hall in Snowmass | AspenTimes.com

New tax could fund next Town Hall in Snowmass

Chad Abraham

After Base Village, the next big issue that could potentially split Snowmass Village residents is where their new Town Hall will be and how to pay for it and a new recreation center.Voters in November will likely decide whether to enact a new property tax and extend two existing taxes for 15 years to fund operations and maintenance of the new hall and recreation center.Where Town Hall will be located is a done deal, said Mayor Doug “Merc” Mercatoris. He said two previous Town Councils have voted to place the new hall above the Conoco near Wood Road. That site is close to where Town Hall currently is.Snowmass Village owns the property that is proposed for Town Hall. After spending more than $4 million in rent during the past 26 years, the town will break even on the new hall in 10 years, according to a news release from the town.”Initially it may cost us a little bit more, but in the long term we’re going to save a lot of money,” said Mike Segrest, Snowmass town manager. “The other problem we have in our community is right now we’re on a six-month lease. If this lease goes away, there’s no place for us to move to in town.”Opponents, including longtime resident and Snowmass Sun columnist Johnny Boyd, say the new location near the Conoco, called the Point, should be sold to pay for building the hall near the rodeo grounds. Ground will be broken there in September on the new recreation center, which could also benefit from the proceeds of selling the other property, Boyd contends in a recent column in the Sun. Mercatoris said the town studied five different sites for the Town Hall during the past two years.”Two different Town Councils have voted to have the Town Hall on the Point site,” he said. “To start over from scratch on this two-year process because some people think that we picked the wrong site is probably not in the best interest of getting this thing in the ground.”At any rate, voters will probably not be voting on where to put Town Hall – they can voice their opinion on that at a forum in a few weeks – but instead will likely be asked how the structure and the recreation center should be financed.Town Hall’s current site is in the Snowmass Center, which is slated for a redevelopment that will force out the town government.Mercatoris said the new Town Hall and recreation center are good projects that deserve to be built. He defended the proposed new tax, which would likely be a mill levy of 1.35, or about an extra $10.80 per year for each $100,000 of appraised real estate value.”Our property taxes are not outrageous by any means,” he said. “Our property taxes are lower than some of the property taxes downvalley.”Another funding avenue could be using certificates of participation, which do not require public approval. The method is essentially a loan that the town would take out. But instead of having the full weight of residents’ approval like a bond measure would have, the certificate’s only asset would be the building itself.”If the town ever defaulted, [creditors] would come in and take whatever you built with the money because that’s your collateral,” Segrest said.Initiating a new property tax, to pay for what is called a general obligation bond, would be cheaper than using certificates of participation because the town would receive a better interest rate, he said. The tax would also help pay for the $3 million second phase of the recreation center.In total, the new tax, combined with extending two taxes already in place, would boost the town’s coffers by nearly $10.6 million. Of that, $8 million would be used for Town Hall and the recreation center’s second phase, the town’s news release says. The remaining would pay off existing bonds and cover the cost of issuing the new bond measure.The town’s financial advisory board, made up of residents appointed by the Snowmass council, will study how to pay for the maintenance and infrastructure of Town Hall and the recreation center. The board will make a recommendation to the council, which will decide whether the tax measures go to voters.A public forum on the new Town Hall will be held either later this month or in early August.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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