Saturday, September 3, 2005
As a Routt County commissioner, I don't normally write letters to the editor, but in this case I feel compelled to do so.
There has been a lot said recently in the paper about the commissioners' decision regarding the prohibition on fundraising for Horizons if the agency's mill levy ballot issue passes. Horizons is asking the voters for a new property tax of one mill county-wide. That tax will generate approximately $830,000 the first year and even more in following years since the revenues from the one mill will not be limited by the TABOR requirements.
In addition, Horizons will be eligible to receive matching federal funds for the majority of the dollars it receives from the mill levy. This means that it will increase revenues by about $1.5 million in the first year and even more in future years. According to our calculations, based on information provided to us by Horizons, this will allow Horizons to increase by 50 percent its annual budget for the five counties it serves and possibly double its operating budget for services in Routt County. The new dollars will enable Horizons to provide services to all of the adults on its waiting list, give much needed salary increases to staff members, provide additional support to families and enhance program quality.
Given the above information, we felt it would only be fair for other health and human services organizations in the county, who will not be allowed to participate in these guaranteed funds, to be able to actively pursue the local funds that had previously gone to Horizons. We made this decision based on the substantial projected increase to Horizons' revenues and because we know that these other agencies are not able to raise enough money to cover the cost of the services they provide to our community.
The language in our resolution states that Horizons cannot hold local fundraising events or apply for local grants, including United Way and the City/County HRC fund. It does not prohibit them from applying for non-local grants, requesting in-kind contributions or receiving unsolicited monetary donations.
The resolution specifically says that if, in the future, Horizons finds that its expenses to provide needed services are once again exceeding revenues, the agency can bring that information to the commissioners and request permission for local fundraising. We are not telling citizens where to make their philanthropic contributions. Anyone can volunteer to work with Horizons clients or write a check to Horizons if they want to support that organization whether or not the mill levy is approved.
When the Museum and Heritage tax passed, it was for a small portion of a mill that allows for some money to go to each area of the county for museum operations and maintenance and program development. It was always understood that the revenues from the portion of a mill would only supplement the museums' and historical organizations' existing fundraising efforts. Part of the revenue from the tax (about $20,000) is set aside annually in a grant fund administered by the county for special museum or historical preservation projects.
The difference between the two ballot issues is that the Museum and Heritage tax addresses all issues and organizations related to historic preservation, whereas the Horizons tax provides revenue for only one of the many health and human services needs in our community. How do we best address the rest of those needs fairly? In developing our resolution for the Horizons tax we attempted to do that.