Tax reform could affect county services | AspenTimes.com

Tax reform could affect county services

Phoebe, 10, and mentor Melissa Resutko, left have been a buddy duo through the Buddy Program that empowers youth through mentoring experiences. They enjoyed a party earlier this year. The Buddy Program is one of many local groups that receive grants through Pitkin County's Healthy Community Fund.

The federal proposal to eliminate or curtail property tax write-offs could end up severely impacting Pitkin County's support of health and human services and numerous area nonprofits, an official said Tuesday.

That's because the Healthy Community Fund property tax that annually helps support those services and agencies is set to expire at the end of next year and could prove difficult to renew under the proposed tax plan, Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards said.

"I actually had a little bit of a sleepless night thinking about that last night because the dynamics are changing when you're no longer able to deduct property taxes," Richards said during the commissioners' regular work session Tuesday.

Efforts to lobby voters to renew the Healthy Community Fund next November will become that much more important, she said.

Both Senate and House versions of the tax reform bill contain provisions allowing deductions of as much as $10,000 in property taxes while eliminating deductions of state and local tax write-offs.

The Healthy Community Fund property tax mill levy brought in more than $2.3 million in 2017, according to Pitkin County. Last month, commissioners signed off on the list of 70 area nonprofits and county agencies that will receive pieces of the $2.2 million being distributed in 2018.

"It's really come up because of the (increasing) valuation in property," Commissioner Patti Clapper said recently. "(Agencies) have to show benefits back to Pitkin County. It's the only way I can justify tax dollar support."

Steve Wickes, a member of the citizens' board that reviews each Healthy Community Fund grant application and makes recommendations to the county board, said the process was eye-opening.

"Sitting through this process reminds me that as a Pitkin County taxpayer, I'm very generous," he said at a commissioner meeting last month. "The Healthy Community Fund is allowing these agencies to survive year to year."

Now that he's seen the need in the community, Wickes said he wants to see the property tax continue.

"I'm a convert," he said. "I really hate to see it go away."

Some of the largest grants from the fund go toward supporting county human services efforts, including more than $459,000 for senior services, $125,000 to Pitkin County Public Health and nearly $295,000 to Community Health Services. Another $182,000 will go to nonprofits that deal with mental health and substance-abuse issues.

Other grants support Catholic Charities, Planned Parenthood, the Buddy Program, Alpine Legal Services and many other health and human services agencies.

Still more grants support groups that focus on physical health, like dental and health care services and Aspen's homeless shelter. Then there are grants for cultural, recreational and educational groups such as graduation projects at high schools, Aspen Public Radio and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Finally, environmental groups including the Independence Pass Foundation and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies also benefit.

"To create a healthy community, you need additional support, especially with the federal government pulling back," said Aspen City Councilwoman Ann Mullins, who has served on the citizen's committee that recommends the grants for the past four years.

Clapper said it not only supports area nonprofits, but allows them to go out and obtain more funding because they can demonstrate local support.

"It's a great way for Pitkin County to show support on a valley-wide level," she said. "We're all in this together."

The Healthy Community Fund property tax began in 2002 and has been renewed by voters in 2006 and 2011.

Richards said Tuesday that using the tax to partially fund the county's health department is problematic because it must be reauthorized every six years, which isn't an effective way to fund such services in the long-term. That means perhaps the tax should become more permanent, she said.

"Pre-thinking and polling on that will become important," Richards said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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Healthy Community Fund 2018 grants

Health and Human Services Grants: Family And Youth:

Alpine Legal Services: $25,000

Aspen Family Connections: $35,500

Aspen Family Connections-Isst: $25,000

The Buddy Program: $40,000

Casa Of The Ninth: $5,000

Catholic Charities: $15,000

Family Resource Center of RFSD: $40,000

Family Visitor Programs: $55,000

Lift-Up: $30,000

Mountain Valley Developmental Services: $70,000

Pathfinders: $15,000

Pitkin County Health And Human Services Emergency Assistance Fund: $35,000

Response: $48,000

River Bridge Regional Center: $10,000

Stepping Stones: $5,000

Valley Life For All: $10,000

Valley Settlement: $25,000

Your Friends For Life: $8,500

Youthzone: $45,000

Health and Human Services Grants: Physical Health

Aspen Chapel: $3,500

Aspen Community Church: $3,000

Aspen Homeless Shelter: $30,000

Aspen To Parachute Dental Health Alliance: $30,000

Bridging Bionics Foundation: $6,000

Community Health Services, Inc.: $294,856

Hospice Of The Valley, Inc.: $55,000

Mountain Family Health Centers: $75,000

Pitkin County Public Health: $125,000

Planned Parenthood: $8,500

Roaring Fork School Health Centers In Partnership With Rocky Mountain Youth Clinics: $22,500

Windwalkers Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy Center: $15,000

Health and Human Services Grants: Mental Health And Substance Abuse

Colorado West Psychiatric Hospital d.b.a. West Springs Hospital: $20,000

Recovery Resources dba Aspen Detox And Drug Testing: $30,000

Mental health request for proposals: $182,000

Note: Pitkin County has asked area nonprofits to submit separate requests for this money in an effort to streamline how mental health in the county is funded.

Health And Human Services Grants: Seniors

Pitkin County Senior Services: 21 percent of fund revenue for 2018: $459,441

Health and Human Services Total: $2,238,797

Grants For Cultural, Recreational And Educational Groups

Access After School: $10,000

Andy Zanca Youth Empowerment Program: $4,000

Ascendigo Autism: $4,000

Aspen Camp Of Deaf and Hard Of Hearing: $8,000

Aspen City Of Wellbeing: $15,000

Aspen High School Project Graduation: $500

Aspen Public Radio: $6,000

Aspen Science Center: $5,000

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club: $15,000

Aspen Youth Center: $20,000

Basalt High School Project Graduation: $500

Carbondale Community Access Radio, Inc. dba KDNK: $7,000

Challenge Aspen: $12,000

Colorado Mountain College Go2work Programs: $10,000

Colorado Western Slope College Fair: $1,500

Computers For Kids Foundation dba Youthentity: $8,000

English in Action: $20,000

Friends of the CAIC: $9,000

Grassroots TV: $21,000

Reach Out And Read Colorado: $2,000

Roaring Fork Leadership: $2,500

Roaring Fork Valley Early Learning Fund (a.k.a. Raising A Reader Aspen To Parachute): $12,000

Shining Stars Foundation: $7,500

Spellbinders: $3,000

Western Slope Veterans Coalition: $2,500

Environmental Quality

Aspen Center For Environmental Studies: $10,000

Aspen Tree: $10,000

Audubon of the Rockies: $2,000

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative: $5,000

Forest Conservancy: $15,000

Independence Pass Foundation: $18,000

Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation: $4,000

Roaring Fork Conservancy: $10,000

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers: $14,000

Wilderness Workshop: $20,000

Total: $2,215,797

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