Voters approve property tax hike for Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel |

Voters approve property tax hike for Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel

Scores of spectators line the fields at Crown Mountain Park last May during a regional lacrosse tournament.
Aspen Times file photo

Midvalley voters narrowly approved a property tax hike for the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District on Tuesday.

The ballot question was approved 1,178 in support to 1,106 against, according to designated election official Jon Erickson from Marchetti & Weaver, the district’s accounting firm. That’s a margin of 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent.

“We are excited to make a difference for generations of people living in the midvalley,” said Becky Wagner, executive director of Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District. “We are excited to begin giving back to the community now that we have the tools to do so.”

The total number of ballots cast was 2,284, or about 34 percent of those mailed out for the election, Erickson said. There were three spoiled ballots and nine defective ballots that couldn’t be counted, he said.

The measure had widespread support among parents of children in soccer, lacrosse and baseball programs and other residents who use the grounds in the El Jebel area. The park gets about 260,000 annual visits, including thousands of people walking their dogs on the concrete and dirt paths.

A parent of three school-aged kids said in casual conversation last week he supported the tax because his family regularly uses ball fields at the park and he has witnessed evidence of wear and tear on facilities. He didn’t view the small size of the tax increase as a burden on property owners.

Opposition came from people who felt the ballot question needed some checks and balances — such as a sunset provision and binding language on how the funds would be spent. Jennifer Riffle, a Basalt councilwoman who is joining the Crown Mountain board of directors, was opposed to the ballot question because it is a permanent increase.

Voters approved a 1.95 mill-levy increase. It will raise an estimated $700,000 annually. The district said in campaign literature that 50 percent of new revenue will go to existing infrastructure, 32 percent to operations and maintenance and 18 percent to the reserve fund. However, there was no binding wording in the ballot question.

Proponents of the tax hike said the existing revenue wasn’t enough to operate the park and handle capital improvements. The district would be in the red and unable to keep up with maintenance under the existing funding scenario, according to backers of the proposal.

When the park and recreation district was created in 2002, voters approved a 1-mill property tax levy for operations and maintenance and a $5.1 million bond for construction. That bond gets repaid through a property tax and will be paid off in 2022, reducing the size of the overall property tax starting the following year.

The new tax will add $14 per $100,000 of home value per year. However, once the bond is paid off, that will be reduced to $5 net increase per year.

The campaign was relatively low key.

“I want to thank the community for believing in us,” Wagner said. “We had an amazing citizen group, board members, community members and county commissioners that believed in us.”

There were only three candidates for three open seats on the board, so the vote tally wasn’t a determining factor. Riffle had 1,118 votes, Tim Power Smith had 1,226 and Kirk Schneider had 1,214.

Erickson said he relied on help from volunteer election judges who were recommended by the Eagle County Clerk’s office. He thanked them for putting in a long day Tuesday.