Packed local November ballot nearly finalized

by Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
The Pitkin County ballot for this fall’s election is nearly complete and local voters will be asked to decide three candidate’s races and either 10 or 11 ballot questions across various jurisdictions, according to Dwight K. Shellman III, the county’s election manager.

Local government entities have until Friday to submit final ballot language and Shellman said Wednesday it appears all the ballot questions have been submitted, except for one potential bonding question that might come in Friday from the Starwood Metropolitan District.

Voters will be asked to choose between two candidates for county commissioner, Jack Johnson or Rob Ittner; two candidates for sheriff, Joe DiSalvo and Patrick “Rick” Leonard, and four candidates for two open seats on the Snowmass Village town council: Fred Kucker, Sally Sparhawk, Kay Hongiman-Singer and Jason Haber. (See related story on page 3.)

Also on the ballot are four local elected officials who are running unopposed for re-election — county commissioner Rachel Richards, county clerk Janice Vos Caudill, county assessor Tom Isaac, and Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Boineau.

There are no county-wide ballot questions being posed to voters this fall, although both the Aspen Valley Hospital district and the Aspen School District have placed tax questions on the ballot, and both districts have geographic boundaries that encompass most of the county. Neither entity includes the portions of the county that are up the Crystal or the Fryingpan rivers within their boundaries.

Voters in the Town of Snowmass Village will have the longest list of decisions to make, as they are within the boundaries of the town, the county, the school district, the hospital district and the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District.

The school district is asking voters to approve $1.2 million in new taxes to support school operations in the face of statewide budget cuts.

The hospital is asking for a tax increase to cover the $87 million cost of issuing $50 million in bonds for the renovation of the hospital.

The hospital also is asking a related “de-Brucing” question that will release the hospital for one year from the requirements of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which was initiated in 1992 by Douglas Bruce of Colorado Springs.

City of Aspen voters will be asked to decide three ballot questions — whether to approve a 1 percent lodging sales tax for marketing; whether to dump instant runoff voting (IRV) and return to a run-off among top vote-getters for council and mayor, and whether to continue publishing the text of legal notices in small type in the back of the Aspen Times Weekly, or just publish the notices online.

Snowmass Village voters will face two tax questions. The first asks for $357,000 annually for five years to fund transportation services and equipment. The second asks for a $2 million tax increase, to be paid over seven years, to put toward the purchase of the undeveloped Droste property between Owl Creek and Brush Creek for open space and trails.

And voters in Snowmass also will find two questions on the ballot from the Snowmass-Wildcat Fire Protection District, although Shellman said Wednesday he had not yet seen the final text of the Snowmass fire department’s questions.

The fire district is expected to ask voters to approve a $75,000 tax increase to offset an anticipated drop in revenue if Proposition 101 is approved by Colorado voters.

And the fire district is asking for a second tax increase to make up for a loss of $1.3 million in property tax revenue, which is anticipated if Amendment 61 wins approval statewide.

Both questions are expected to be written so that if Proposition 101 and Amendment 61 are defeated, the tax increases will not take effect.

State law guides the selection of ballot numbers for the referendum questions, Shellman said.

The Aspen lodging tax question will appear as referendum 2A on the ballot, the IRV question is 2B, and the publication of ordinances question is 2C.

The Snowmass Village transportation question is 2D and the Droste property question is 2E.

The Aspen School District question is 3A, while the hospital de-Brucing question is 5A, and the debt and tax increase question is 5B.

The Snowmass fire district questions are set as 5C and 5D, and if a question comes in from the Starwood metro district, it would be 5E.

Shellman said he hopes to have the ballot finalized on Friday, after all the local questions are finalized and after the Colorado Secretary of State certifies the statewide portion of the ballot.