Discussion on historic mill levy continues

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— Routt County commissioners met with the Friends of Heritage Fund Group Monday morning to discuss how to proceed with efforts to put a 0.3-mill levy in place that would provide more than $200,000 a year for county museums and historical societies.

The meeting originally was scheduled for last week, but was pushed back to give commissioners time to draft a letter to the Town of Yampa to address concerns about the tax brought up at the town's July 2 meeting.

One concern was that because Yampa is a small town, its constituents wouldn't have enough pull if there were a county-wide vote about the mill levy.

County Commissioner Doug Monger said he has presented the mill levy to Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Yampa. A presentation will be made to Oak Creek Thursday.

He said that no decision will be made until the commissioners hear back from Yampa, whose town board is scheduled to discuss the mill levy at its August meeting.

Bob Baker, who is part of the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg, said at Monday's meeting he expects the Oak Creek Town Board will, for the most part, support the mill levy.

"South Routt does not speak with one voice," Baker said. "I don't think you should let one town ... put you off track with this thing."

Members of the group expressed concern that if the commissioners didn't vote to put the issue on this year's ballot, county museums would suffer in the yearlong waiting period. The deadline for ballot initiatives is Sept. 9.

Jayne Hill, president of the Tread of Pioneers Museum Board of Directors and a Historic Routt County board member, said the Tread of Pioneers would be "very pressed" to make it through another year and keep paying salaries and other fees.

Hill also said the museum should not be an issue that divides communities, but rather helps them unite in efforts to preserve the county's history.

"This is not a Steamboat issue, this is a county issue," Hill said.

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

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

Another option is 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.

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