Letter: Open Space taxes too much, vote ‘no’ on 1A
I love and personally make extensive use of our parks and open space, but a commitment of more than $500 million in additional taxation is simply too much and unnecessary.
Five-hundred million dollars. Based on historical growth of the Pitkin County Open Space property tax, the proposed 20-year extension of the 3.75 mill levy would produce between $500 and $650 million in taxes for open space. For the past 15 years, the open space tax has been more than 50 percent of all Pitkin County property taxes — more than county property taxes for the General Fund, Road & Bridge, Social Services, Healthy Community, TV Translator and Bond Redemption combined. County Open Space property taxes are approaching $12 million per year. The city of Aspen’s 1.5 percent sales tax for Parks and Open Space yields over $10 million annually. Given past successes, do we need to devote over $22 million per year (and growing) in local taxes to parks and open space?
The county Parks and Open Space program, in partnership with the city, town of Snowmass Village and others, has been highly productive with over 20,000 acres having been acquired and preserved. Open space acquisitions have largely run their course as the most important lands have been acquired including Droste (Sky Mountain), Smuggler, Hunter Creek, Brush Creek, Deer Hill/Burlingame, Red Butte/Stein, North Star, Moore, Marolt, Crown, Grange, Cozy Point and many others. We are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of National Forest. While there may be some attractive parcels to be acquired, the largest and most important lands that are in highly visible and accessible areas have been acquired or protected. Therefore, fewer resources should be devoted to acquisitions. Highly restrictive county land-use policies severely limit the development risk of any remaining tracts of land and largely assure visual qualities will be preserved.
With the past success of Open Space acquisitions, more resources should be devoted to managing, maintaining and improving the existing public open spaces. Rather than extend a large tax authorization that does not expire until 2019, vote no on Referendum 1A and ask your county leadership to re-evaluate how our total county tax burden and expenditures are allocated and adjust the requested taxpayer burden for discretionary choices such as open space.
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Certainly there is no replacing the voice Paul Andersen brought to the Times’ op-ed pages. For the next year, though, we’re going to use the Monday spot to bring some of the voices of our newsroom to these pages.