Referendum 1A needs your support
October 21, 2011
We urge Pitkin County voters to approve the extension of the Healthy Community Fund tax, which expires in 2013.Voters have approved the property tax twice – the first time in 2002, and then in 2006. And with good reason: The Healthy Community Fund goes toward supporting a vast array of nonprofit agencies in Pitkin County – 61 in 2011, to be exact – ranging from senior services to the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club.The renewal of the tax, for another six years, would mean the owner of a $100,000 residential property would pay $5.55 annually, and so on, toward the fund. Currently, residential property owners are paying $4.25 on $100,000 valuations toward the fund; passage of Referendum 1A would mean an increase of $1.30 per $100,000.That represents an .004 increase to the total tax bill of a Pitkin County property owner, but would boost the Healthy Community Fund by 30 percent in 2013, translating to $1.94 million for the fund that year.Critics of 1A say that government should not be involved in selecting which nonprofits to support with grants from the fund, and there’s a lacking in accountability for how the said organizations use the money.We believe this argument is misguided. First, Pitkin County commissioners appoint a citizen grant review committee to comb through the grant requests and issue them based on the nonprofits’ needs and track records, among other things.Second, the grant recipients are also monitored by Pitkin County Health and Human Services staff. In 2011 alone, the Healthy Community Fund allotted $1.5 million to a plethora of nonprofits that are vital to Pitkin County. Among them: Alpine Legal Services, $20,000; Aspen Counseling Center, $78,200; Aspen Homeless Shelter, $20,000; the Buddy Program; $25,000; Pitkin County Senior Services, $345,086; Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention, $38,100. The list goes on. Not everyone might agree about who the grant recipients should be. And with 61 beneficiaries of the Healthy Community Fund, there will always be some level of disagreement about which nonprofits should be receiving grants and which ones shouldn’t.The Healthy Community Fund might not be perfect in terms of the nonprofits that benefit from it, but it goes a long way toward enhancing the quality of life in Pitkin County. Whether you’ve lived here three months or 30 years, chances are good you know somebody who directly benefits from the Healthy Community Fund.Given today’s volatile economic climate, it’s vital that voters approve the passage of 1A. Charitable giving is down across the country, and the Roaring Fork Valley. But 1A would help shore up the shortfall. These moneys would go toward not only bolstering the programming of these coveted nonprofits, but also toward sustaining staffing levels, and in turn, keeping money in our local economy.It’s worth noting that because the tax sunsets in 2013, if it fails at the poll in November, the question could be asked again in November 2012. We’re disappointed that the county didn’t simply ask voters to extend the existing tax; instead it’s asking voters for a tax increase as well. In today’s economic climate, that’s a risky proposition. Even so, we implore Pitkin County residents to vote YES on Referendum 1A. And remember, this is a mail-in election, so make sure to get your ballot to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office no later than Nov. 1.