Recommendations for local ballot issues
October 21, 2004
Voters will see fairly crowded ballots when they go to the polls Nov. 2. This week, The Aspen Times makes its endorsements on several local ballot initiatives.
Roaring Fork Transit District: It seems that the transit agency is back on the ballot nearly every two years, asking for more money to avert financial crisis. Voters in every city and county from Aspen to Silt are being asked this year for some kind of RFTA tax increase. RFTA is asking for this boost because it overestimated revenues the last time around, a mistake we dearly hope it won’t make again.
RFTA needs this infusion, however, to keep running its buses and to launch a credible trail-building effort, a part of its mandate that officials have promised to uphold. The Times urges citizens to Vote yes for RFTA (Question 1A in Pitkin County; other jurisdictions will have different numbers), but RFTA needs to make it work this time.
ACRA Visitor Center: Yes, Aspen would get this brand-new visitor center essentially for free, but we don’t see the compelling need for a new building to serve people in need of information or concierge-type services. The three-story structure approved by the Aspen City Council would block views from the nearby Galena Lofts, but there are other, more important issues: a lack of parking, impacts to the library plaza open space, and a dubious location outside the downtown core.
This referendum would repeal a city ordinance approving the project. To vote against the visitor center, Vote yes on Referendum 2A.
Pitkin County Library: It has been 11 years since the Pitkin County Library asked voters for a tax increase. With Question 5A, library officials are requesting an additional $385,000 in property taxes per year for additional staff, updated checkout equipment and eight more computers for public use. The owner of a million-dollar home would pay an additional $18.31 in taxes. Given the amount of the increase and the value of the library to this community, this seems a reasonable proposal. Vote yes on 5A.
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Basalt Library: It has been more than two decades since the Basalt Regional Library District received a tax increase, and nearly everyone agrees it’s needed this time. In fact, many of the individuals who opposed the district’s 2003 request to raise taxes for a new building are now leading the charge for this more modest tax hike. Without this monetary infusion, the library expects to close its doors for an additional two days per week. The measure would raise property taxes an additional $9 per $100,000 of assessed value, a fair price to pay for library services. Vote yes on 4A.
Roaring Fork RE-1 School District: Owing to past bungling, both fiscal and academic, there are valleywide doubts about the RE-1 district administration, but the district appears to have done its homework in preparing these companion measures for the ballot. One would raise property taxes to pay for $86 million in bonds to build new school facilities; the other would raise taxes for operating revenue, mainly to increase pay for teachers and staff.
Nobody argues that the district doesn’t have a legitimate need for new school buildings and for money to pay competitive salaries. A two-year study identified $122 million in capital needs, but the district whittled that figure to $86 million before coming to voters. It’s telling that no organized opposition has emerged to this expensive proposal.
This will cost the owner of a $400,000 property some $20 per month. That makes for some sticker shock, but this district needs the help. Vote yes on referendums 3A and 3B.