Steamboat Springs Voter apathy tends to be strongest in odd-year elections. That doesn't appear to be the case this year, and for good reason.
Steamboat Springs voters will decide five City Council races, two School Board races and the fate of a community recreation center. All Routt County voters will decide whether county government can shed the revenue restrictions imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights. Voters in South Routt will elect School Board members and decide whether to increase funding for their school district. Hayden residents have two School Board races on their ballot as well as a building materials use tax and a cemetery district tax. In North Routt, voters will decide whether to increase property taxes to support the North Routt Fire Protection District.
Change is happening all around us, and this year's election will help determine how our communities deal with growth, education, infrastructure and other pertinent issues. Turnout has been strong thus far, with nearly 4,000 residents already casting their ballots by mail or taking part in early voting. We hope another 4,000 people - or more - head to the polls Tuesday to help decide the future of their communities.
Voting is the best way to participate in our democracy. If you haven't already taken the time to cast a ballot, please do so.
The Steamboat Pilot & Today doesn't endorse individual candidates, but we do take stands on local ballot issues. Following is a recap of our stance on three of this year's initiatives:
- "No" on Referendum 1A. Referendum 1A asks Routt County voters to exempt county government from TABOR revenue restrictions. The revenues from this de-Brucing proposal - anticipated to be $3.3 million for tax year 2007 - would be used primarily for road and bridge projects. But beginning in 2012, the county would need to dedicate only the first $2.6 million to capital projects. Any remaining revenues could be used however the county sees fit. County officials have not demonstrated the need for a permanent, largely blank check from taxpayers. Thus, voters should reject this initiative.
- "Yes" on Referendums 2B and 2C. The referendums would impose a city property tax to fund the construction of a $34 million Steamboat Springs recreation center and about $455,000 a year to help offset the operational and maintenance cost of such a facility. The rec center would provide a valuable amenity to our community. The plan is the result of years of surveys, studies and consultant work. As it stands, the owner of a $500,000 home would pay less than $200 in additional taxes in the first year, and the tax burden likely will decrease as current and future residential and commercial growth continues. This facility has the potential to benefit all community members for decades to come, and at a reasonable price for residential property owners. Vote "yes" on Referendums 2B and 2C.
- "Yes" on Referendums 3A and 3B. Referendum 3A is a mill levy override that would raise up to $360,000 a year for the South Routt School District's general fund. Referendum 3B would raise the $1.57 million needed to replace the district's aging coal-fired boilers with clean, energy efficient, ground-source heating systems. The South Routt School District has been hurt by decreasing student enrollment during the past decade, and the resulting loss of revenue has forced school officials to cut programs and staffing. The district's coal-fired boilers are falling apart and must be replaced. The state already has awarded a $1.57 million grant contingent on the district providing the remaining $1.57 million. Vote "yes" on Referendums 3A and 3B.
These are our stances. Please consider them as you formulate your own stances. But most important, make voting a priority this Election Day.