Pitkin County: More money for roads? | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County: More money for roads?

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

PITKIN COUNTY ” Proponents of Pitkin County’s Referendum 1B, which would increase property taxes over the next 20 years for “dedicated funding for county roads,” say the money will actually save taxpayer money thanks to an increase in “preventative maintenance.”

The question, placed on the ballot by the Board of County Commissioners in August, asks voters to increase the county’s property tax rate by two mills, which the county estimates is equal to approximately $16 per year for every $100,000 of residential property value.

For 2008, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office, the county was projected to assess taxes at a rate of 2.096 mills per year for the general fund, and an additional 3.760 mills for the Open Space and Trails program and 1.050 mills for the county library.

By comparison, the city of Aspen has a property tax rate of 5.419 mills, the Colorado Mountain College district at a rate of 3.997, and the Aspen School District was projected to tax at a rate of 6.756 mills for 2008, according to information on the assessor’s website.

A mill equals one dollar for every $1,000 of assessed value of property, as established by the Colorado Constitution and the county assessor’s office. That would mean a home valued at $500,000 would pay an additional $80 per year in taxes if Ref. 1B were to pass, while a home valued at $5 million would pay an additional $800 in taxes.

In comments written by county staff members and the Board of County Commissioners, and published in a special “Election Information” brochure, supporters of the ballot measure note that current spending, roughly $1.9 million per year out of the general fund, is not sufficient.

According to Roads Supervisor Brian Pettet, a consultant estimated the county needs to spend between $5 million and $8 million per year to keep the roads in good shape.

In addition, according to the “pro” argument in the election brochure, the money from the general fund that has been paying for road improvements “now is needed to cover the increased cost of other essential services such as the sheriff and jail operations, district attorney and courts, and road snowplowing and grading. These services have experienced significant increases in the cost of fuel, utilities, and the recruiting and retention of staff.”

No “con” comments, or remarks in opposition to the proposed property tax hike, were received by the clerk’s office before the September deadline, and no organized opposition group could be found that is fighting against the tax hike.

But County Commissioner Jack Hatfield, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 4, has said he is “neutral” on Ref. 1B. At a recent candidates forum in Woody Creek, he told the audience that it might not be the right time for such measures, given the slumping national economy.


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