Referendum 1A benefits us all
October 21, 2009
Voters in Pitkin and Eagle counties this fall can make it a lot easier for local homeowners and business owners to make their properties more energy efficient.
Under the Energy Smart Local Improvement District proposed in both counties as Referendum 1A, the county governments would provide loans to property owners who want to improve their homes and businesses with new insulation, energy-saving lighting or heating systems, solar panels and other energy-related upgrades. If the proposed improvement will reduce energy consumption and/or make a property more efficient, then the counties would act as a bank, making project-specific loans that owners would repay through their property taxes.
One of the most important points about Referendum 1A is that the program is entirely voluntary. Only property owners who borrow money would see an addition to their property tax bills.
There are numerous details yet to be worked out on the actual administration of these programs. Would the counties have to hire new staff, or could existing employees handle the workload? How big could the loans, and thus the proposed energy projects, be? How about interest rates and government red tape? We don’t know all the details, but this doesn’t smell like a fiscal boondoggle, and we do see an opportunity to put various tradespeople back to work.
Where do the counties suddenly find money to make loans for energy-efficiency improvements? With Referendum 1A, Pitkin County is asking permission to increase its debt by up to $7 million, with a total repayment cost of $15.3 million. Eagle County plans to borrow up to $10 million, with a repayment cost of $25 million.
If voters allow the counties to borrow the money, then the counties in turn will make loans to residents. The homeowners and business owners who borrow money will pay the counties’ costs.
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County officials are confident of broad participation from property owners, and we too think many locals will pursue these kinds of energy improvements, given the opportunity for fixed-rate loans that take the financial sting out of a major home-improvement project. Holy Cross Energy has endorsed the proposal.
We like the idea of local governments encouraging energy-efficiency improvements through a voluntary program without increasing taxes. Vote yes on 1A. And don’t forget this is a mail-only election, so look for your ballot in the mail and send it back to the clerk.