Cemetery district trying to keep up with growth

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Referendum 5B - ballot language

Without imposing any new taxes and without increasing its property tax mill levy, shall the Hayden Cemetery District, as a voter approved revenue change, be authorized to accept, collect, retain, or expend all revenues received from all sources from the fiscal year 2006 and each subsequent year, notwithstanding any limitations or restrictions that would apply under Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution (TABOR), section 29-1-301, Colorado Revised Statues (5.5% limit), or any other law?

— Hayden-area voters will consider increasing their cemetery district tax in the Nov. 6 election via Referendum 5B, which aims to fund capital improvements and expansion to keep pace with population growth.

"Hayden's just changing tremendously, and we're trying to keep up with that," Hayden Cemetery District Board member Lisa Zirkle said. "We're growing, and our cemetery grows."

Referendum 5B calls for "deBrucing" the cemetery district tax, a reference to Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, author Doug Bruce. DeBrucing would exempt the Cemetery District from TABOR's restrictions limiting tax increases to population growth and the inflation rate. DeBrucing would effectively allow the Hayden Cemetery District to increase its tax revenue.

Zirkle described the current tax as "tiny," at less than 0.5 mill levy.

Improvements to be funded with Referendum 5B revenue would include grading and fencing undeveloped land in preparation for future burial sites.

The Hayden Cemetery District serves Hayden, Milner and other unincorporated communities in Routt County such as the Williams Fork area. The district currently operates on an annual budget of less than $40,000 for improvements, grounds maintenance and equipment.

In addition to the Hayden Cemetery, the district operates a cemetery in the unincorporated community of Pagoda and maintains the grounds of a closed memorial cemetery, also in Hayden. The cemetery district tax funds all three facilities, although the closed facility requires only minimal upkeep, Zirkle said.

Providing burial services at the Pagoda cemetery is particularly expensive because of its remote location and the need to bring in the necessary equipment from Hayden, Zirkle said.

The district has only part-time caretakers, and Zirkle said the board hopes to hire full-time employees, or at least expand the number of hours worked.

"We are a small district, so we don't need a whole lot of funding, but we do need more than what we're getting now," Zirkle said. "The big thing is just doing the capital improvements, and keeping up with the growth."

Anticipated improvements to County Road 37, bypassing Shelton Lane, would offer a more direct route to the cemetery from U.S. Highway 40, but would also change the entry points to the grounds, requiring additional work.

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