Wheeler Opera House to see another act of RETT | AspenTimes.com

Wheeler Opera House to see another act of RETT

Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

The city-owned Wheeler Opera House will continue to receive funding through a real estate transfer tax after Aspen voters overwhelmingly approved its renewal in Tuesday’s election.

With voters’ approval of question 2E, the Wheeler will continue to receive proceeds from the 0.5 percent tax through Dec. 31, 2039. The tax had been set to expire Dec. 31, 2019.

When voters last approved its extension in 1997, the real estate transfer tax revenue were to “be used only for the purpose of renovation, reconstruction and maintenance of the Wheeler Opera House and for the purpose of supporting the visual and performing arts.” This November’s ballot question said the money would be “earmarked for the maintenance of the Wheeler Opera House and the support of the visual and performing arts.”

City officials put the tax extension on this year’s ballot as an insurance policy of sorts. Had voters rejected it, the question could have been brought to voters again. But if voters ultimately downed the tax extension, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights would preclude it from returning to the electorate. TABOR stipulates that voters — not elected officials on government boards — renew existing real estate transfer taxes.

Last year saw $2 billion in real estate sales in Pitkin County, accounting for $5.4 million collected by the Wheeler through Aspen property transactions. Through September of this year, the real estate transfer tax has drawn $2.8 million for the Wheeler, according to a city finance report released this week.

Broadband authority, Question 2B

Voters cleared a measure giving the city local control on whether it wants to hire other internet service providers, opting out of a 2005 state Senate bill that forbids governments from competing with the private sector over broadband service.

Expansion of City Council’s hiring abilities, question 2C

The question to grant the City Council the authority to approve the hiring of both the city’s chief of police and community development director was closer, but still netted a win for the “yes” camp.

The City Council currently doesn’t have a say in the hiring for the two positions. Its hiring authority includes the appointment of the city manager, city attorney and municipal judges. It also can sign off on the city manager’s hiring of the clerk and finance director.

With the passage of 2C, the City Council will be able to either approve or reject the city manager’s hiring of future police chiefs and directors of Community Development.

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