Historic tax question will be on ballot


— A .3-mill levy for county museums and historical societies will be on this November's ballot, giving residents a chance to vote for or against devoting tax dollars to preserve the county's history.

Routt County commissioners decided to put the proposed mill levy on this year's ballot at a meeting Tuesday.

If approved by voters, the tax will raise about $210,000 in its first year.

"History belongs to all of us, and we are so bereft when it is gone. And when the stories and the buildings ... are no more, we then suffer as a community from cultural amnesia," said Arianthe Stettner, with Historic Routt County. Stettner thanked county commissioners for moving the proposed tax forward and said that it would benefit residents as well as tourists.

"Our guests who come to visit us will have so much more to see and remember," she said. "They will know our story."

If the tax passes, about a quarter of the money it raises will be spent on county activities and organizations; 10 percent will go to Historic Routt County, 10 percent to capacity-building programs and 3 percent to administration expenses.

The remaining funds will be split among five fund districts, which are based largely on school districts: Yampa, Oak Creek/Phippsburg, West Routt, North Routt and Steamboat Springs.

That means that Steamboat's historical organizations would receive about $117,000, while Yampa's organizations would receive about $2,600. The ballot also gives the Yampa area an additional $1,100 from the Eagle School District.

People attending the meeting voiced support for the commissioners' decision.

Carol Villa, with the Oak Creek/Phippsburg Historical Society, said that Oak Creek has thousands of photos that don't have a home and that could be lost without support from a mill levy.

Janet Ray, town clerk of Yampa, said that the funds would be useful in the southern part of the county. Several Yampa residents said the tax was not necessary, but the Town Board agreed that voters should decide on the issue.

If the mill levy passes, Ray said, "I certainly believe there's a need for the funds up there."

County commissioners approved the resolution putting the question on the ballot and said that the mill levy would be helpful given that it is getting increasingly difficult for the county to provide discretionary funds.

Commissioners also said they thought the resolution portioned funds evenly.

"I think now the way we have it divided up is a very fair way to do it," Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said. "People can be assured that if this tax passes, they will only be paying for the museum activities in their area."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com


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