Pitkin County firms up ballot questions
August 24, 2011
ASPEN – Pitkin County will put four ballot issues before voters in November, including an increase and extension of the tax that supports the Healthy Community Fund. The ballot questions received final approval from county commissioners Tuesday.
A contemplated question on expansion of the Pitkin County Library building will not go forward this fall, the library’s board of directors has decided. While planning for that project has been completed, commissioners were not keen on pitting a funding question for the library against the Healthy Community Fund tax.
The community fund tax has been the focus of several debates about whether to ask voters to simply extend the existing tax for another term or to propose an increase. Commissioners ultimately agreed to ask for an increase, from the existing $4.19 per $100,000 of residential valuation to $5.50 per $100,000 of valuation.
The increase is intended to provide additional help to the health and human service agencies and nonprofits that are seeing increased demand for services as a result of the recession.
The ballot language will ask voters if county taxes should be increased by up to $464,000 annually, resulting in a total tax levy of up to $1.9 million, for the Healthy Community Fund. The tax collection would begin in 2013 (the current tax expires in 2012) and continue for five years.
The ballot measure won approval on a 4-0 vote Tuesday, with Commissioner Michael Owsley absent. Commissioner Rob Ittner voted to put the question on the ballot, though he previously urged a more modest increase if there is to be a hike in the tax at all. He questioned whether voters would continue to support the tax with the proposed increase.
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“I think it’s fair to say this is a compromise proposal,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards. “We will do our best as a board to support this going forward.”
Ittner, however, said later that, though he supports the fund and putting the tax before voters, he hasn’t decided how he will vote on the measure.
Voters will also be asked to expand the potential use of the existing tax that supports the county’s FM radio and television translator system. It transmits broadcast signals into the nooks and crannies of the county, providing radio and television reception that would otherwise be blocked by the mountainous terrain.
Since the tax was first approved by voters in 1995, technology has changed. This fall’s ballot question will seek authorization to use the tax – at its current level – for wireless technology services if they’re available and affordable. Some areas of the county lack high-speed wireless Internet access.
The ballot will also include a couple of questions devoted to language in the county’s home-rule charter. One will clean up ambiguous, obsolete and conflicting provisions in the document. Perhaps most notably, it reduces requirements for the publication of county ordinances and resolutions in a newspaper, calling for the publication of only the title and a short summary of the legislation, rather than the full ordinance or resolution.
A second charter housekeeping measure addresses eligibility for some county offices, proposing language to make it clear that candidates for assessor and the clerk and record’s post must be eligible electors in the county, citizens of the United States and at least 18 years of age. The new language also makes it clear that Individuals elected to those posts must remain residents of the county throughout their terms of office.
While the eligibility requirements have been a matter of past practice, they aren’t spelled out specifically in the charter.