Pitkin County open space officials want tax levy restored
October 23, 2011
ASPEN – Pitkin County Open Space and Trails officials will push for the reinstatement of the full mill levy rate that funds the program in 2012, after two years of a reduced levy to provide property tax relief.
The decision is ultimately up to county commissioners.
Even if the mill rate is restored to the 3.75 approved by voters, a drop in property values means a property owner would pay less toward Open Space and Trails next year than the individual paid this year, according to Dale Will, director of the program. The owner of an average $1 million property will see next year’s contribution to Open Space and Trails drop by $53.86, even with the higher mill rate, he calculated. On average, property values are down 33 percent with the latest revaluation, he noted.
The program’s mill rate was dropped to 3.32 in 2010 and 2011.
“The time has come for us to get back to work on our long-term goals and not chop project funds out of our capacity,” he said Thursday during a meeting of the Open Space and Trails board of trustees. Board members did not disagree.
“I hope we collect the full levy going forward,” said member Tim McFlynn.
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“It was a temporary blip and it’s time to go back to what the voters intended this program to do,” agreed board member Hawk Greenway.
The program’s budget, with the mill levy restored to the full rate, anticipates $6.9 million in revenues next year that will be available for open space and trails projects and acquisitions, though no new trail construction is currently planned. Retaining the lower mill levy will cut that amount by about $2 million.
Redstone resident Chuck Downey appeared before the board to urge members to push for the higher mill levy.
“Don’t back down. You’ve got the voters behind you,” he said.
Board member Anne Rickenbaugh agreed.
“It’s one property tax some very conservative people tell me they don’t mind paying because when they walk out the door, they benefit from it,” she said.
The program’s 2012 budget, approved by the board Thursday, reflects $3.6 million in administrative and other expenses outside of the projects and acquisition fund. County commissioners are scheduled to review the Open Space and Trails budget on Tuesday.
It includes no new positions, though an additional nordic trails groomer – a city of Aspen position funded through the program – is included.
Also proposed in next year’s budget is up to $50,000 to plan future use of the historic Emma townsite buildings and seek public participation, and about $47,000 to restore the powder house building behind the old Emma Store, with a state grant paying the rest of the cost.
Ongoing work to inventory the program’s trail and recreational holdings and generate maps and information about the regulations for each of them, to better inform the public about the resources, is expected to cost $50,000.
Planning of a dual-surface Rio Grande Trail (gravel and pavement) on a stretch between Woody Creek and Aspen is also budgeted at $50,000, as is ongoing management planning for the former Droste property and adjacent open space parcels.