Three items to pay attention to
August 27, 2008
Hopefully enough people have seen the Pitkin Board of County Commissioner’s agenda for Wednesday, Aug. 27, and will attend.
Of real concern are three items: Neiley open space, road and water ballot questions and county exemption from code.
The Neiley parcel is a Resident Occupied designated lot that is being sold to open space. Though open space always is a positive, the need for affordable homes to house school, hospital and other community-necessary employees is bigger than acquiring one more small parcel between a road and two houses.
The proposed increase in sales tax to fund water quality at first glance seems a good idea until you think about it. There are three proposals on November’s ballot that require sales tax. Sales tax has to be considered a finite source with a cap because revenues from sales tax start to fall as the tax passes 9 percent. Sales tax hits the young and less affluent hardest because it is levied on everything ” utilities, clothes, food and buying online doesn’t escape Aspen/Pitkin County’s sales tax.
Under state enabling legislation, RFTA can only collect money from fare box, sales tax or grants ” no property tax. As transit is in desperate need for additional funding, using the finite amount of sales tax for other purposes will make it harder to get approval for any increase in sales tax dedicated to transit. As Aspen’s sales tax is already at 8.365 percent (?) the remaining portion should be conserved.
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Lastly, the water-quality tax is really about creating a whole new focus for county government that currently is not supported by constitutional law or legal precedent.
The county simply does not have legal “standing” to dictate water quality nor does it have the authority to “hold” water it isn’t using. A more cost-effective way to address county concerns regarding water is for the commissioners to work closely with state elected officials.
The county does need more money for roads, but they absolutely do not need to backfill the additional $1.7 million they plan to raid from the general fund. The county should just ask for the shortfall and not use this as an opportunity to expand other “hidden” and most likely publicly unsupported agendas.
Other writers have addressed the county’s move to exempt its own projects from the code. Though there isn’t a homeowner or builder in the county that doesn’t have sympathy for the difficulty, time and money consummation the land-use code requires, exempting the county in the long run won’t serve the county well.