Marolt: The costs of rec-center training
October 23, 2013
It's entertainment to watch somebody else wage a local political battle without us having anything invested in the outcome for a change. Seeing the good people of the El Jebel area hash out the pros and cons of a new recreation center makes you appreciate what we have up here in Snowmass Village.
It's not a good idea to look too hard at what you have compared with somebody else unless you begin contented, and so I start on solid ground that this column will have a happy ending for us living in Snowmass Baseless Village. But I can't cut to the finish just yet because this is not an exercise to write the world's shortest column. Let me build up a head of steam before I get there.
First of all, government budgets and financial statements are the quagmire of numbers during a soggy summer. They are a mess! That is not coming from the literary type in me. It is straight from the part of me that studied financial numbers for six years and has made a living from that over the ensuing 21/2 decades. Bo may know football, baseball and cross-training, but Ro knows digits and decimal places — for the most part. It is no wonder that we can't decide any issue on simple economic analysis. It's because it isn't possible.
Second, after poring through recreation center numbers here and there, I am sure of nothing except that the proposed new one in the El Jebel area would be super-expensive. Everybody down there seems to be talking in terms of what the annual cost would be for the average owner of a $500,000 home, so I'll stick with that measuring stick. Their new center is expected to cost about $535 per year for this hypothetical homeowner. To the best of my abilities, which aren't completely reliable per the explanation above, I think the Snowmass Village Recreation Center costs about $190 per year for a comparable household. Both figures include debt pay-down.
As shaky as my calculation may or may not be, one thing I do know is that for the owner of a half-million-dollar home in Snowmass Village, the property tax assessment to run the entire town for a year is just $359.77, including the rec center, Town Hall administration, snowplowing, debt service, etc. That's 50 percent less than what it would cost the average El Jebelian to just keep their rec center going.
Which brings me to my third observation in this exercise: It is not that the rec center in El Jebel would cost so much more to build and operate than ours or Aspen's. The huge cost per home in the El Jebel area is due to the fact that they do not have anywhere near as many multi-gazillion-dollar lifestyle estates down there to absorb the brunt of the property tax burden. It's like the real world there, where the average person has to pay for their own amenities. It's just not the same stick-the-rich-uncle-with-the-tab scenario there as it is here.
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This brings me to my final reflection for the week. Second-home owners often cite this fact that they bear the brunt of the property tax burden as the reason they should get to vote on local issues. I believe this is the precise reason that they shouldn't. Second-home owners vote with their pocketbooks. All things considered, if they chose to buy a vacation home here, that is their stamp of approval on the general state of affairs. If they think that the rec center, or any other amenity the regular residents of this town approve, is too much, they don't need to invest here. We all discovered just how powerful this option of theirs is during the fresh-in-our-minds Great Recession. When people don't buy second homes, our economy goes in the crapper ahead of a royal flush. That's sufficient influence over how we might consider their interests in the voting booth. People who have planted roots here don't really have that same option to that degree. In the end, everyone gets their say, just in different ways.
That said, as promised, it is time for the happy ending to this piece. Although we will soon no longer have our beloved Village Market, we still will have our incredible and affordable rec center. We got that one right! Use it. Love it. Protect it. We don't have much left that is truly our own. It is worth every penny we have invested.
Roger Marolt is just another fan in the corner of the rec center. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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