Monday, June 20, 2011

Pushing for a parks tax

Posted By on Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Great Parks-Great Communities goes before the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners tomorrow to ask that a tax increase of .15 of a percent be placed on the November ballot. The money would be shared among cities and towns and the county for parks maintenance.

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The initiative is being proposed by a coalition of parks supporters in the region, who conducted a poll showing voters support such a measure.

Led by the Trails and Open Space Coalition, citizens convened three years ago to address falling park funding. The city's funding for parks dropped from $19 million in 2007 to $3.1 million in 2010, while the county's park funding declined from $2.6 million to $1.1 million during that timeframe.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted a poll that shows the following, according to the Great Parks presentation to be given tomorrow:

— 59% supported a one-tenth of a cent sales tax to support park maintenance efforts while 53% supported a one-quarter cent increase.
— Those supporting the measure indicated that clean parks, restoring previous cuts, taking care of what we have, and protecting our assets for future generations are reasons to support the initiative.
— 61% of voters describe parks, trails and other facilities as being in fair or poor condition.
— 82% of all respondents indicated that El Paso County citizens should be given the opportunity to vote on this issue.

The presentation also proposed this distribution for the proceeds of the tax increase:

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A fly in the ointment comes from the commission's concern about paying its share of the November coordinated election. Estimates range from $150,000 to $300,000, depending on what other agencies have measures on the ballot.

Another reason commissioners might oppose the parks measure: Putting it on the ballot gives them no money-saving excuse not to allow voters to revisit term limits measures approved last year by voters giving commissioners and other county elected officials a third term. The 2010 questions have been described as deceptive, because they asked whether officials should be limited to three terms rather than allowed an additional term.

There's a couple of other items on tomorrow's BOCC agenda that might also be of interest:

— A measure to refinance the Criminal Justice Center addition built in 2002 to save money in financing costs.

— An item described like this on the agenda: "State of Colorado update regarding oil and gas activities."

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