Vote ‘yes’ for schools, hospital |

Vote ‘yes’ for schools, hospital

Aspen is utterly unique among American small towns because its abundant resources, attractions and amenities seem utterly outsized for a community of some 6,500 permanent residents. The skiing and cultural offerings are the best-known of these amenities, but other, less glamorous resources are perhaps even more important, more fundamental to everyday life.

Aspen’s fine schools and excellent community hospital are two of the institutions that may not attract tourists, but they help form the bedrock that supports all full-time residents – not only those who live in Aspen proper, but the entire upper Roaring Fork Valley.

The Aspen schools are some of the finest in the state, and they prepare our children to succeed in a changing, increasingly complex world; because they are exceptional schools, they make us proud and buttress our property values.

Same goes for Aspen Valley Hospital; the medical professionals at AVH deliver our babies and heal us when we hurt ourselves on the ski hills. They also help our visitors, and we’ve all read the letters to the editor from far-flung cities and countries, thanking AVH for the quality care it provided to Aspen guests who ran into trouble on their vacations.

The Nov. 2 election offers an opportunity to support both of these vital institutions, and we urge voters to do so. Yes, these are tax increases in a difficult time but, taken together, they will cost the owner of a $500,000 home far less annually than dinner for two in Aspen.

Referendum 3A would raise property taxes in the Aspen School District by $1.35 million per year, roughly $16 per year for the owner of a $500,000 home. District officials placed this measure on the ballot specifically to counter a drop in per-pupil funding from the state, and an anticipated drop in property tax revenue owing to falling property values.

The district’s budget has already been slashed, mainly through cuts in transportation and other “support” services, and the aim is to protect the actual classrooms from cost reductions. If you value Aspen’s low class sizes, dedicated teachers, outdoor education offerings, high school sports, and all the other things that truly set our schools apart, then this is the way to preserve them.

Vote yes on Aspen School District Referendum 3A.

Aspen Valley Hospital isn’t trying to shore up its budget during a recession; rather, it’s trying to prepare for the future with an ambitious expansion. After more than three decades in the current building, AVH officials say, the hospital needs an upgrade in order to stay current, care for an aging population and adapt to changing modes of health care.

Voters are being asked to approve the issuance of $50 million in bonds, which would be paid back over 20 years. This $4.36 million tax hike would cost the owner of a $500,000 home about $36 per year. This proposed tax money is only a portion of the overall funding plan, which includes tens of millions from private donors, hospital cash-on-hand and the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation.

The $120 million, four-stage building plan, which includes on-site affordable housing and doctors’ offices, calls for AVH to eventually triple in size, but officials have said the construction could be halted after phase 2, the largest phase, if need be. Hospital officials point out that now is a cheap time to borrow and build, and we agree.

AVH has had its share of financial trouble and mismanagement over the years, but the current administration has done an admirable job of putting the institution back on track, and we believe they’re right to pursue this improvement. It’s always a bit scary to make a big commitment like this one, but our hospital is overdue for this upgrade.

There are two ballot measures – Referendum 5A asks permission for the hospital district to exceed its existing revenue limits, and 5B is the actual tax increase – and we recommend a yes vote on both.

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