County approves Horizons tax question

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Boisterous clapping followed the Board of Routt County Commissioners' approval of a ballot measure asking voters to support a 1-mill levy for those with mental retardation.

More than 50 people -- clients of Horizons Specialized Services, employees and family members of clients -- filled the Commissioners Hearing Room on Tuesday morning to witness the question's approval.

The commissioners agreed to ask voters to support a property tax that would raise $832,000 annually for Horizons and go toward people who have developmental disabilities.

The commissioners, who worked with the resolution last week, made few changes to the ballot language, which will appear before voters in the Nov. 1 election. They changed one section to require that a client live in Routt County for a year or have parents or guardians who have lived in Routt County for five years before they can receive funding from Horizons.

Horizons Executive Dire--ctor Susan Mizen thanked the commissioners for allowing the tax to go to the voters in November.

"There is a room full of people interested in the passage of this resolution. On behalf of all of us, thank you for allowing us to be here today," Mizen said.

She noted that the resolution addressed, to their satisfaction, concerns about accountability to Routt County voters, the Routt County residency required of the clients it funds, and fund-raising conditions.

The public also was given an opportunity to speak about the ballot question.

"Horizons is our lifeline," said Karen Leftwich, who has a family member in the program. "I know how hard it is to raise funds, to keep the program going."

The 1-mill would raise $832,000 a year and cost homeowners $7.96 a year per $100,000 of assessed value.

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, organization representatives have said.

Currently, Horizons, which serves people who have developmental disabilities in five counties in Northwest Colorado, has a waiting list of 55 clients. Routt County has a list of 22 names with a waiting period of seven to 15 years before services can be provided.

Language in the resolution restricts Horizons from holding fund-raising events or distributing direct mailings if voters approve the mill levy. Horizons also could not request money from the city/county Human Resource Coalition Fund or Routt County United Way.

If Horizons received the tax and representatives thought fund raising still was needed, they would have to come back to the commissioners on a case-by-case basis for permission to raise additional funds.

The resolution also requires that Horizons provide to the commissioners an annual budget and year-end accounting that outlines how funds from the tax were used.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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