Sales tax for Aspen schools will go on ballot
August 16, 2012
ASPEN – Aspen voters will be asked to approve a sales tax for education on the November ballot.
The Aspen City Council agreed Tuesday to put the measure – which could bring as much as $1.75 million into Aspen School District coffers annually – to a public vote.
“We are very, very excited to win the support of the City Council,” said Robin Hamill, former interim director of the Aspen Education Foundation, which is the Aspen School District’s nonprofit fundraising arm. “It is a relief to be moving forward.”
At a work session Tuesday, the three City Council members present offered their support of the initiative and instructed City Attorney Jim True to begin drafting ballot language. Ballot language must be approved by Sept. 7, though the City Council has scheduled a Sept. 4 meeting to approve all ballot items formally.
In the works for some months now, the measure as presented would increase the Aspen sales tax rate by 0.35 percent. The tax would expire in four years, with an independent, appointed board overseeing its distribution.
On Tuesday, the amount of the tax was up for debate, however.
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“There are questions about whether we can trim that down a little bit,” Hamill said, adding that he and other Aspen Education Foundation officials will confer with school district administrators about whether there is “some wiggle room.” “If we can scale it back, we will come back to council with that information.
“But there is a real, clear need for these funds, so I am not sure.”
According to the Aspen School District finance office, projected budget deficits from now until 2016 fall into a range of $660,000 to $980,000 annually, depending on the year.
Regardless, Hamill acknowledged the challenge that lies ahead in garnering public support.
“We know we have a lot of work to do to get the votes to fall where we want them to,” he said. “But this community has – over and over again – been supportive of education, and we hope that will continue in November.”