The tax would require a vote of support from residents of the mountain county west of Colorado Springs -- and before that could even take place, a change in state law.
However, county officials are serious enough about the idea that they commissioned a poll in April to gauge the opinions of Teller residents.
Asking 300 registered voters, the county found that 54 percent were favorably inclined toward a parks and open-space tax, while 42 percent opposed it. A 57 percent majority opposed raising property taxes for the same purpose. The poll had a 5.7 percent margin of error.
The move has been spurred in part by next year's planned opening of Catamount Ranch Open Space, a 1,320-acre parcel of conifer and aspen forest on the north slope of Pikes Peak.
The county bought the land in 1998 and is constructing trails and a trailhead to allow public access by the middle of next year.
"We're running into a funding crunch," says County Commissioner Bob Campbell.
Even if voters might back the idea, the total sales tax percentage levied by Teller County and its cities and towns already meets the maximum allowed by state law. A bill that would have allowed counties to raise additional sales taxes for parks and open spaces, subject to voter approval, passed in the Colorado Legislature earlier this year but was vetoed by Gov. Bill Owens.
Another effort to pass a similar bill is expected next year. If it succeeds, Teller County could put a proposed parks and open-space tax on the fall 2006 ballot, says county parks director Kevin Tanski.
"I have pretty high expectations that something will pass," Tanski says of the legislative effort.
-- Terje Langeland
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