School taxes and employee housing | AspenTimes.com

School taxes and employee housing

Su Lum
Aspen, CO Colorado

After all the flap about the possibility that the city would keep its windfall mill levy (they chose to reduce it, as did the county), one would assume that the electorate is waiting with baited breath to see what the schools will do.

County residents were staggered by huge increases in their property assessments, realizing, too late, that having previously approved various taxes for community improvements will cost a lot more if the mill levies stay the same after their assessments have jumped by 40 or 60 percent.

Because of the ballot wordings, the de-Brucing questions we approved allow most of the taxing districts to enjoy a windfall by keeping the mill levy the same. Thus, if your assessment goes up 50 percent, so do your taxes.

The ballot issues seem conveniently staggered with upcoming reassessments. Voters are reassured that approval of a tax will cost the equivalent of going out for lunch once a month, only to find, after the reassessments, that the price for a lunch has jumped to the price of a dinner, neither of which are cheap in Aspen.

To put the matter into perspective, the taxes on my 1,100 square-foot miner’s shack are just shy of $3,000 per year including a $262 senior tax exemption credit. This might be low considering the inflated values in this community, but high for anyone on a fixed income ” I’m lucky I’m still working.

Of this amount, $311 goes to Pitkin County, $528 to the city, and a whopping $1,400 goes to the Aspen School District and Colorado Mountain College. The Aspen School District has squeezed most of the tax blood out of local turnips for its new gala buildings, and I hope the district will show its gratitude to the voters by adjusting its mill levy down so as not to sock it to us again. (Sad update ” the mill levy will not change.)

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It may seem contradictory, but I approve of the city’s purchase of BMC West lumber and supply outlet for affordable housing. Of course it is expensive, but it is on the bus line and not far from town, and we need all of the employee housing we can get.

I pray that it will not be turned into open space or a private pony club, as Cozy Point was. Public opinion on BMC West is somewhat muddled, some thinking that, if the city hadn’t bought it, it would still be a lumber yard, which is not true. It was going to be sold, period.

Meanwhile, a second community meeting was held regarding the disposition of the Zupancis property beside and behind the courthouse, with the interested parties pleading their cases: the county, city, library and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) for more office space, and the Art Museum to relocate entirely.

Of these five applicants, ACRA’s was the most modest and acceptable. What was again entirely missing was any representation from the housing board to use that property for the one thing we need most: more and more employee housing. The city should have included them for the housing we so need, not just the housing the project will generate.

The Art Museum is great where it is, the library has masses of unused space on its upper floor and as for the city and county offices, I apply my own house rules. I live in a very small space so, if I bring anything in, an equal amount has to go out. The only option would be to build a bigger house or in the government’s case, more offices.