Tuesday, November 4, 2003
The promise of free admission to the Tread of Pioneers Museum didn't hurt.
Voters approved a 0.3-mill property tax Tuesday that will support museums and historic preservation throughout Routt County. The measure will raise $210,000 per year.
County Referendum 1A carried a plurality of 600 votes out of the eight precincts in the city of Steamboat Springs, and that was enough to prevail over a negative vote in West Routt and Yampa. The tax measure carried 56 percent of the ballot. The vote count was 2,713 to 2,084. West Routt voters rejected the tax 200 to 162, and voters in Yampa were against it 106 to 60. However, voters in Oak Creek were narrowly in favor of the museum tax, 163 to 150, and North Routt voted 88 in favor, 85 against.
Jayne Hill, chairwoman of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, predicted that the portion of the tax revenues going to smaller museums in the county would make a significant difference, and with the funding would come increased responsibility.
"I think they're going to be amazed at what they can do with a little money," Hill said. "I think it's going to raise those museums to a whole new level."
The tax will cost homeowners $2.38 per $100,000 of property valuation. Commercial property owners will pay $8.70 per $100,000.
The Tread of Pioneers Musuem will eliminate its $5 admission charge for Routt County residents, with passage of the tax.
The $210,000 raised will be divided proportionately among five museums. The Tread of Pioneers Museum will receive $117,000.
Oak Creek/Phippsburg will receive $14,500 annually to help fund its fledgling museum; $18,000 will go to West Routt; $7,700 to North Routt; and $3,700 to Yampa.
Ten percent of the funding each year -- about $21,000 -- will be set aside to create a fund for special projects. Any of the museums can seek money from the fund.
Hill said all the museums in the county have significant collections, but conservation of history goes beyond mere artifacts.
"It's just things until you put the stories with them," Hill said. "It's the preservation of peoples' stories, their memories."
Another 10 percent of the tax funds each year will go to Historic Routt County, which works to identify and preserve significant historical buildings.
The Tread of Pioneers has been struggling to meet its annual budget of $180,000. The museum typically receives about $30,000 annually from the city of Steamboat Springs. About 65 percent of the annual budget comes from fund-raising efforts. With passage of the tax, the city subsidy will be eliminated and the pressure of fund raising will be eased.
Museum board members said before taking the tax proposal to the electorate, they seriously considered going it alone. Some members argued for keeping their tax request within the city, rather than appealing to the entire county.
Had the measure not passed this fall, they were prepared to return to city voters with a similar proposal that would not have included county museums.