Referendums 1A and 1B are rare ‘no-brainers’ on ballot
October 17, 2006
If there are any “no-brainers” on the Nov. 7 ballot, they include two referendums from Pitkin County requesting support for health and human services and open space protection.Referendum 1A seeks renewal of the health and human services tax enacted four years ago with overwhelming voter support. The funds from the tax – approximately $900,000 a year currently – support nonprofits such as YouthZone and the Pitkin County Senior Center. In all, 42 agencies currently receive financial support from the county government thanks to the health and human services fund. Without county support, some of those organizations would have to cut services, some drastically. The exercise programs at the senior center likely would be scrapped, for example. The fact is, nonprofit agencies provide a broad range of support in the area of health and human services that modern-day government won’t or can’t provide.Referendum 1A proposes a six-year property tax that in 2007 would charge $5.27 for every $100,000 of residential property value. If approved, the new tax would cost a $5 million home just $263.50. On a $400,000 condominium, the tax would be just $21.08 per year. The current tax is $3.90 per $100,000, which equates to $15.60 per year for a $400,000 unit.We think the small increase Pitkin County proposes is worth it, in part because the county has identified 60 agencies as eligible for funding support, but mostly because it’s the humane thing to do. Nonprofit organizations provide a broad range of support services that make life a little less harsh for residents facing the greatest challenges. It’s money well spent.Referendum 1B proposes an extension of the existing Open Space and Trails property tax of 3.75 mills for another decade, to 2020. It authorizes the county to borrow up to $20 million – money to be repaid with tax proceeds – to finance the program’s efforts. (The tax will cost a residential property owner $37.50 per $100,000 of assessed value in 2007.)Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has been extremely active in the past few years, permanently protecting large parcels in every corner of Pitkin County – from the Crystal River Valley to the edge of Aspen – from future development.Although the current authorization for the Open Space and Trails tax doesn’t expire until 2010, the department is seeking a 10-year extension in order to allow it to continue protecting open space. The money also would go toward purchasing mineral rights to protect from gas and oil drilling, and water rights to protect the habitat.Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has been extremely successful since its creation in 1990. About 14,000 acres are now protected from subdivision and development. Such protections are key to keeping Pitkin County the spectacular place we’ve all come to appreciate. It is a worthy program that deserves your support.Vote Yes on referendums 1A and 1B.