Voters reauthorize property tax for AVH |

Voters reauthorize property tax for AVH

Tim Mutrie

By an overwhelming margin, Pitkin County voters agreed yesterday to reauthorize a property tax that generates between $1.5 and $2 million annually for Aspen Valley Hospital.

The mil levy tax helps subsidize several hospital departments that regularly lose money.

County residents and property owners who comprise the hospital district (the Redstone area excluded), voted to extend the existing property tax another five years by a margin of 585 to 130.

“It was a pretty overwhelming yes vote,” said hospital CEO Randy Middlebrook, after the final tally was reported at about 10 p.m. yesterday.

“I think it’s a vote of confidence, and in addition to that, it’s a vote of support,” Middlebrook said. “Aspen is a demanding community, and we feel that the hospital is a valuable resource to it. It’s good for us to know that the community feels the same way and is willing to support us – it’s a great vote of support.”

The 1.5 mil levy tax for AVH was first approved by voters in 1996. It expires this year. Tuesday’s vote permits the tax to continue through 2006.

Also in Tuesday’s balloting, two incumbents on the AVH board of directors won re-election to their posts. Morris Cohen and Bob D’Alessio were re-elected with 524 and 379 votes, respectively. The third candidate in the directors race, John Jellinek, received 257 votes.

A third question on the ballot – that asked whether term limits for directors on the AVH board should be abolished – narrowly passed, by a margin of 354 to 345.

The mil levy largely offsets annual deficits created by several departments at AVH, the so-called “loss leaders,” Middlebrook explained last week. Together, the emergency room, the patient care unit and the indigent care provider, the Aspen-Basalt Care Clinic, lost about $1.4 million in 1999, he said.

Nevertheless, those medical services are vital to the hospital and community, and apparently the general public recognizes that, judging from Tuesday’s results, said Middlebrook.

“We’re definitely breathing a sigh of relief,” he added last night. “And that’s indicative of having our ear to the tracks prior to the election, because it seemed as though everyone was positive about the mil levy all along and that’s the way it turned out. We’re pleased.”

For county property owners, the tax translates into $29 annually for properties assessed at $200,000, and $146 annually for a properties assessed at $1 million.

The mil levy bolsters AVH’s annual budget by between $1.5 and $2 million, which is approximately 5 to 6 percent of the hospital’s annual $33 to $34 million budget.

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