Horizons' tax request up for review

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The Board of Routt County Commissioners will discuss whether a mill levy should be on November's ballot, and, if so, how high it should be to support those in Routt County with mental retardation.

This afternoon, Horizons Specialized Services is scheduled to meet with commissioners to work out the details of a ballot question asking voters to approve a property tax to fund services for people with developmental disabilities. The final decision to put the question on the ballot and the resolution to go along with it is not expected to occur today, Commissioner Doug Monger said.

When Horizons came before the board earlier this summer, the commissioners suggested some changes to the nonprofit's tax proposal. The two groups will discuss those changes today.

"We will have some questions about their direction. I don't believe the actual adoption will happen (today)," Monger said.

Among the more pressing issues is just how much the mill levy should be. Horizons has requested a 1-mill levy, which would raise $792,000 a year and cost homeowners $7.96 per year per $100,000 of assessed value.

Routt County Commissioners have questioned whether 1 mill is needed and recommended that less than 1 mill be sought.

Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen said the agency would provide commissioners with more information today about why they are requesting a full mill.

The combination of a growing population with more needs, an aging population of caregivers, decreasing funding from the state and increasing costs of providing care has left Horizons strapped for funding, the organization said.

Right now, Horizons, which serves the developmentally disabled in five counties in Northwest Colorado, has a waiting list of 55 clients. Routt County alone has a list of 22 names with a waiting period of seven to 15 years before services can be provided.

Even with a full mill levy, Mizen said, Horizons would be able to serve only half of those on the waiting list, which would meet immediate needs, but not future demand.

Mizen said a proposal for 0.5 mills would not cover their immediate needs and would be about $200,000 more than what they already generate from fund-raising campaigns in Routt County.

"The 1 mill would only provide help to people with immediate needs. There are going to be people coming on the waiting list, and the 1 mill won't help them," Mizen said.

Horizons also hopes to modify language in the county's resolution that would allow for in-kind donations from the community. Mizen said the organization is fine with language that would assure the county that Horizons would suspend all fund-raising events and direct-mailing campaigns in Routt County. The organization also would not request funds from the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

But, Horizons would like to continue to receive in-kind donations and unsolicited donations and apply for grants if a mill levy is approved. Mizen points to the Steamboat Ski Area's support of Horizons' ski program, which is an in-kind donation valued at $50,000 a year.

"We don't want anything in the resolution to jeopardize that," Mizen said.

Ideally, Horizons would like language that would have the organization suspend fund-raising events and a direct-mailing campaign for about three years or until expenses once again outpace demand.

Mizen said Horizons has no problem with the commissioners' suggestion for an annual review of the money raised in Routt County. She said the organization already identifies how much money is spent per client and easily can show that the money raised in Routt County is used for those living in Routt County.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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