Although voters across Pitkin County will decide five ballot questions next month that would raise taxes, comments in opposition have only been filed for one of those issues — the Pitkin County Library expansion.
Colorado election law allows any voter to submit written comments for or against any financial ballot issue that will be decided in the Nov. 6 election. The Pitkin County Clerk’s Office uses those comments for its 2012 election information packet, which will soon go out to voters. The deadline to submit those statements was Sept. 21. While supporters of the ballot measures all filed “pro” statements, the only “con” statements submitted were against the proposed property taxes that would, in part, pay for the library expansion.
Appearing as two questions, referendums 5A and 5B ask voters to increase the mill levy $141,000 annually for the library district’s operations, and raise the district’s debt by $5.4 million with a repayment of up to $10.2 million, respectively.
A yes vote on 5A will add a tax of .44 cents a year per $100,000 of residential property value to pay for operational expenses related to the reconfigured building. Question 5B asks that property taxes be increased up to $460,000 annually to pay for the actual building of the facility. A yes vote will give the library the authority to issue bonds to pay for the planned construction, which would cost residential property owners about $1.26 a year per $100,000 of value.
Statements advocating for the passage of both library questions argue that the library is an important community asset, and the expansion and reconfiguration is needed to meet the needs of the public.
Statements against the questions argue that redevelopment and the addition are unjustified, and the library’s current $5 million endowment is sufficient for any interior renovations, without further taxing the public.
The con statements were submitted by an issues committee recently formed that is campaigning against the controversial proposal, which would expand the library by 7,000 square feet.
Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill said that by law, two summaries of up to 500 words each, one for and one against the proposal, must be filed with the election officer responsible for the ballot question 45 days before the election.
It’s the election officer’s responsibility to accurately summarize the written comments, but not necessarily fact check the information, so it’s up to voters to educate themselves.
Vos Caudill said it’s not surprising that only one question received a con statement, because very few con statements have been filed in recent elections. But she said they are useful for voters to be informed.
“I feel that by providing pros and cons, voters have the opportunity to assess varying viewpoints and hopefully additional [information], which provides ultimately sound decision making and healthier outcomes,” she said.
The other tax questions on the ballot are Referendum 2B, which asks city of Aspen voters to raise sales taxes by 0.3 percent to support Aspen Public Schools; Referendum 4A, which asks Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District voters to raise property taxes to support district operations; and Referendum 5C, which asks Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District voters to raise property taxes to support operations.
The last day to register to vote is Oct. 9. Vos Caudill urges Pitkin County residents to make sure their voter registration information is up to date to avoid any confusion in what she expects to be a high-turnout election.
Over 700 Pitkin County voters are now in different precincts from the last election, and an additional 4,000 voters are in the same precincts but have been assigned new polling places. Voters can verify their registration information at www.pitkinvotes.org .
The clerk’s office is asking residents to vote early by mail-in ballot to avoid long lines. All Pitkin County registered voters who requested a mail-in ballot should receive their ballot on or shortly after Oct. 17.
Early voting begins Oct. 22 and runs until Nov. 2, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Pitkin County Clerk’s Office.