Yampa residents: No museum tax

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At a Yampa Town Board meeting earlier this month, some residents opposed an effort to establish a .3 mill levy that would provide more than $200,000 a year for county museums and historical societies.

After hearing that the proposed tax increase was being "pushed down Yampa's throat," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger delayed a Tuesday meeting on adding the mill levy initiative to the November ballot and wrote a letter to the town of Yampa encouraging board members to discuss the initiative and decide whether the town wants to take part in it.

Yampa trustee William North-rop and several people in the audience at the July 2 meeting said "that this was a Steamboat thing being shoved down the rest of the county's throats and they didn't really want to have it in Yampa," Monger said.

"They get $100,000, we get $2,000," Northrop said, referring to how the funds supplied by the mill levy would be dispersed to Steamboat Springs and to Yampa. "We can raise that kind of money on a pie sale. To pay this much on it and that's all we get out of it, it's kind of a slap in our face," he said.

The proposed mill levy, which supporters would like to see on the November ballot, would tax property owners about $2.38 for each $100,000 of residential property. The funds from the proposed tax would be divided between the county's five museums based on school district boundaries and populations.

That means Steamboat's historical organizations would receive about $117,000, while Yampa's organizations would receive about $2,600.

Although there is a disparity in funds received, all of the funds raised in one area would stay in that area, a feature of the ballot proposal that Monger said is positive.

"The nice thing about this resolution is the areas that pay the taxes get the taxes," Monger said. "They stay at home."

Marty Woodbury, executive director of the Tread of Pio-neers Museum, agreed.

Another audience member at the Yampa meeting who did not support the mill levy was Wendy Moreau, director of the Yampa Egeria Museum. Moreau said that most of the residents she has talked with believe the town can take care of the museum on its own, without the help of a mill levy.

"There's always been a resentment in this end of the valley towards Steamboat," Moreau said. "The people around here just feel like it's Steamboat again -- that the Tread of Pioneers has overextended itself and is asking the taxpayers to pick up the tab.

"We hate to be the bad guys, but we've got to be true to ourselves, too."

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said that if the town does not want to participate in the mill levy, then she would not support putting it onto the November ballot as the proposal is written.

"The audience members who were (at the meeting) were pretty vehemently opposed to being taxed," Stahoviak said. "It is an issue of concern for at least some people in the town of Yampa. How many? I don't know."

But, Stahoviak said she would support Town Board members on whatever decision they made.

"If they, as the leaders in that community, don't feel it's right ... I'm willing to support them," Stahoviak said. "I walked out of (that meeting) thinking, 'If this is truly the feeling of this community, we should not pursue this for this community.'"

If the town chooses not to participate in the ballot issue, Staho-viak said there are other funding options the county could consider. One would be to form a special historic preservation and museum district that excludes the southern part of the county, thus excluding Yampa from taxes and tax revenues raised in the district.

What the mill levy issue comes down to, Monger said, is whether county residents view preserving the area's heritage as a task that should be funded through tax dollars, just as education, libraries and other services are. Many counties already have such funding programs, he said.

However, the commissioners will wait until they have feedback from all parts of the county before making a decision to put the mill levy on the November ballot, Monger said. The commissioners have received positive feedback from the Steamboat Springs City Council, but is waiting to present the initiative to Oak Creek, Toponas and Hayden. The issue goes before the Hayden Town Board on Thursday night.

"We're not going to make any decision until we hear from all the communities." Monger said.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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