Steamboat officials critical of anti-tax ballot measures

They say initiatives would force further cuts and result in fewer services

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— Routt County government and Steamboat Springs school officials are critical of three ballot measures they say would affect revenues, require additional budget cuts and reduce services.

Colorado voters in Novem­ber will consider Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, which are citizen-led initiatives aimed at decreasing taxes and reducing government spending.

The Steamboat Springs School District hosted two community budget meetings Mon­day to discuss how the measures would reduce district revenue. The Routt County Board of Com­mis­sioners heard a presentation about the ballot measures Tues­day.

School district officials say Proposition 101, which would reduce vehicle fees and taxes, would cost the school system $1.23 million in revenues throughout a four-year period. Amendment 60, which would repeal all voter-approved property tax increases above limits set by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, would result in the loss next year of mill levy overrides totaling $1.5 million. Amendment 60 also would require school districts to cut their mill levies in half by 2020 with the expectation that the state would cover the difference.

Based on preliminary estimates from The Bell Policy Center, of Denver, reducing property tax rates would cost the state $1 billion, in addition to the estimated loss of $1.7 million from Proposition 101.

Dale Mellor, the school district’s finance director, said with the state already cutting to balance this year’s budget, he doesn’t know where the additional money would come from.

Superintendent Shalee Cun­ningham said if the measures passed, “education finance in Colorado goes down the tubes.”

Routt County Finance Di­­rector Dan Strnad told commissioners Tuesday that the county would lose about $2 million with full implementation of Proposition 101. He said Amendment 60 could result in $1.67 to $3.9 million in lost revenue from voter-approved mill-levy overrides that provides funding for conservation, services for residents with disabilities, and museums and historic preservation.

Supporters of the measures have said they would force the government to operate more efficiently and cut spending.

“It’s our general belief that the state of Colorado has enough money to spend,” Marty Neilson, president of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, told The Associated Press last week. “They can spend more wisely, or even cut their spending.”

But local officials express concern about the reach of the ballot measures. For example, Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan told commissioners Tuesday that Amendment 61, which would require local governments to get voter approval to borrow and repay the debt in 10 years, would prohibit the county from repairing Routt County Road 14. He also said the county simply couldn’t afford to repay an $18 million bond in 10 years.

Commissioner Nancy Staho­viak said it’s important for the community to understand that the county would be able to provide fewer county services if voters approved the measures.

Commissioner Doug Mon­ger said the approval of the measures would be a financial windfall for taxpayers.

“But I’m not sure you’d want to be here because there won’t be anything left,” he said.

Cunningham said Tuesday that most of the district’s efforts to educate the public about the ballot measures would happen when the next school year begins in August. But, she said, the measures likely would be part of a legislative update scheduled for the May 24 School Board meeting.

Parent Mary Darcy, who has three children in the district, attended the community budget workshop Monday night. She said if more cuts were required — next year’s budget has been trimmed about $1.9 million with the expectation for further cuts in upcoming years — the community needs to start coming up with creative solutions to raise money for the schools.

“If we keep cutting things out of the school budget at the rate we’re going, and especially if these (ballot measures) pass, I’m afraid we will destroy what’s so great about our schools,” Darcy said.

Comments

Duke_bets 4 years, 9 months ago

yampa - It seems that you support more cuts to the education system in Colorado.

Duke bets that per capita, Colorado is well behind a majority of the states when it comes to intellectual output of students. Duke bets that per capita, the state is also well behind a majority of other states when it comes to athletic output on the next level.

I agree that there needs to be major cuts, but I don't agree with those coming from the education system.

And, Cunningham's salary was a signed contract. With the amount of crap that she deals with, I doubt she is overpaid.

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Cooke 4 years, 9 months ago

Duke - CO is 34th, just squeaking by Texas and New Mexico. Pretty low on the list.

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sledneck 4 years, 9 months ago

Big suprise! People in government want to "maintain revenue". I'm shocked... SHOCKED!

What people who suck at the public nipple WANT doesn't concern me one darn bit. If they aren't getting what they WANT they should move to the private sector.

People in Hell WANT ice water.

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

No problem. It's a (representative) democracy so your vote will count. As I understand the logic, you can cut the taxes while keep the roads paved and plowed by making CDOT more efficient, getting all those guys to stop leaning on their shovels and cutting the exorbitant salaries at the top.

Here is a warning from the whiney leftist transportation commissioner: we are already depending on that evil federal government to keep CDOT operating. If those funds go, as surely they must in the face of record federal deficits, and these initiatives pass, CDOT will be decimated. Sounds good, right? You'll really teach CDOT. Remember your vote when road plowing stops at 7 pm, or perhaps earlier, and the roads deteriorate to road base. Since rebuilding a failed road costs 10x the maintenance cost, poor roads will persist even if you change your mind and decide maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let them fail after all. When you are repairing your car's front end, buying new tires, and replacing your rims, the a new sort of tax will become apparent. When Colorado's bridges fail, some may die suddenly and tragically but the rest of us will suffer the economic losses of people being unable to reach the ski resorts or not coming to Colorado altogether. Major projects, such as replacing the I-70 viaduct, essential for travel between DIA and Steamboat, will be impossible. Summer tourism, which depends entirely on driving, will diminish.

As for those overpaid CDOT staff, we've been bleeding senior engineers to private sector firms and those losses will increase. CDOT will become less expert and capable.

Go ahead. Send CDOT, your schools, and your local government to Hell. If you don't you realize that these organizations are you, your neighbors and community, then nothing I can say will change your mind.

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greenwash 4 years, 9 months ago

George are you on a pension now? Just wondering.

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Duke_bets 4 years, 9 months ago

yampa and sled - Duke bets you both support medical marijuana and think it's just a plant to help heal all ills. Do you think that has anything to do with the intellectual output? Duke bets that per capita, CO is near the top for drug abuse, yet a majority are supporting all the dope shops.

It's too bad that every citizen of legal age gets a vote.

Education is not the place to make cuts. They are removing standardized testing for a reason. The government is afraid of the outcome from the proposed cuts.

One last question. What is the definition of overpaid?

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TWill 4 years, 9 months ago

I'll double-down on Duke's bets. The school system in the entire state (not just Steamboat and Routt County) is clearly sub-par in both academics and athletics when compared to other regions and states in our country. Why is that?

I'll guess (and maybe Duke will bet) that it has a lot to do with the overall laid back attitude that prevails (particularly in the mountains). Are drugs part of it? Maybe. That attitude makes for a nice place to live as a grown adult, but maybe not the best environment to raise our kids and mold their outlook on life. You know what they say about the "cool" parents and teachers...

YVB- can you please elaborate on the "Country Club" comment? I think I know the point you're making, but am not sure.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

These measures are about eliminating government, not making it more efficient.

It is utterly irresponsible to say that local taxes for schools can be deeply cut and the state will magically have the money to fund schools.

It makes no sense to simply outlaw borrowing by governments. Borrowing for major infrastructure projects makes sense.

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Duke_bets 4 years, 9 months ago

Twill - Let's play some cards. There is a point to our statements. A few, maybe the majority nowadays, will disagree, but the logic is fairly simple.

Maybe the logic part is why others disagree. Too consumed in a political stance to understand what's up.

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exduffer 4 years, 9 months ago

Last time I checked athletics was not a requirement to graduate from high school, phys ed maybe but not athletics. Where would various states rank in school funding if athletics were taken out of the equation?

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blue_spruce 4 years, 9 months ago

"...If you don't you realize that these organizations are you, your neighbors and community, then nothing I can say will change your mind...."

schools. military. fire / police. roads and infrastructure....the list goes on and on. without taxes we could have none of these things. the fabric of our society would come apart very quickly without "government". and the more we cut, the more (formerly government) workers become unemployed, further depressing our fragile economy.

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TWill 4 years, 9 months ago

Duke- I think it has something to do with the ability to see the forest through the trees. And many educational bureaucrats/ politicians are not able to do that.

exduff- do you really think that eliminating athletics would improve anything about our educational system? It could be argued that athletics are as significant to the overall educational experience as academics.

The little that could be saved financially by such an absurd suggestion would never come close to compensate all the intangibles that athletics provides the students (not just the athletes), teachers, coaches and overall community.

Use the Sailors football team from last fall as an example (although you could use any different sport from any different school too). Did you see how the entire community and school came together during the team's playoff run?

Sorry to say, but the math, english or any other academic department are not capable of generating such a buzz among the student body and beyond. I'm not implying that we don't need to support academic acheivements as much as (or more than) athletics- beacuse we do. But it isn't just the players on the field, court, mat, etc. that gain life long experiences from athletics.

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Matthew Stoddard 4 years, 9 months ago

Cunningham on an hourly pay = overtime pay. But, it sounds like someone already knows what a School Superintendent goes thru each school year (and summer) & is willing to bid for the job at a lower price. Go for it!

As for our schools, the last ones built from the ground up were the Strawberry Park Elementary & Middle Schools. Both were built approximately 1981-ish. (I believe HS Class of 86 was the last to graduate 8th Grade in 1982 from the old Jr. High on 7th St.) Since those were built, all existing schools have had 1, maybe 2 major renovations/add-ons instead of building new schools. Those buildings are decades old. Most of those renovations came during the school year (I was a Freshman when the 1st reno I've seen happened, adding on the North Wing onto the HS) and the kids had to hole up where they could. Steamboat's public schools are no Country Club, by a long shot.

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Matthew Stoddard 4 years, 9 months ago

Nope- went to Catholic school 1st half-ish, then SSJHS & SSHS. Been in the military, though. And when I go to the HS for the week of the Dance Concert, I've never or heard any of the kids there acting undisciplined or disrespectful. They don't half-step march to chow or class, but they aren't riding motorcycles down the halls, either. They're acting like teenagers.

A lot of those kids are the kids of people on this site, too, I'm sure. Fred's kids went to school with me here. Ask him if he thinks his kids got it too soft. They seemed to have done just fine for themselves, thanks to the schooling & their upbringing, as far as I can tell.

As for summer work, that's the best time to get work done! No kids around to get in the way of things needing to be done. No phones ringing as you're trying to get admin work done. (And when I say "No" I mean "a lot less") Remember- I went to school here and have seen it in action. The schools don't just collect dust in the summer. I'm sure actual parents on this site can let you know how it goes nowadays.

Kids are more savvy at a younger age than before, thanks to the tech available to them. They don't have to go to the library after school to read up on subjects for a report- the Google it. Time saver over what we had. The curriculum just hasn't caught up enough to truly challenge them, yet.

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JLM 4 years, 9 months ago

Oh what delicious irony!

Our elected officials have done nothing but raise taxes and fund increasingly more outrageous and destructive legislation.

Now comes the citizenry, up in arms, and uses the very rights they have been given by the same legislature to fashion their own future in open rebellion against the profligate spending of the unaccountable.

Deal with it, anybody who is feeding at the public trough.

There is a recession and every citizen has had to tighten their belt a notch or two and now so shall you, ingrates.

You have had it too good for too long and now the chickens have come home to roost.

Pass all of these initiatives and let's see who can manage a budget in a recession.

Know that the electorate is mad and ignore it at your peril.

Go tax cutters!

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

For what it might matter, I'm not on a pension but I don't spite those that earned a retirement. Too many powder days in younger years make me ineligible. I'm struggling in this economy so go ahead and be smug if you're not.

These initiatives are foolish in the extreme. If this is about jealousy about "feeding at the public trough," go ahead let your state's infrastructure and educational system go to to ruin to punish public sector employees.

My kids are out of school, before you ask, with my youngest getting her Masters in bio-medical sciences last week, emphasis in neurology, with a 4.0 gpa no less. Can you applaud that or are you also jealous of those who educate themselves? Denying or compromising the K through 12 public education that helped my daughter succeed is a quick way to make the next generations less capable, our state less successful, and our society less pleasant.

I won't go on about the road and bridge infrastructure. The Chief Financial Officer of CDOT, for example, is Heather Copp, an extraordinarily capable person who has already demonstrated her ability to budget when money is tight. These initiatives are hardly an exam for her. It's way too simple for that.

If you don't want highways to move freight, tourists, and your own vehicles, vote for these initiatives. If you want Colorado to have any hope of replacing the I-70 viaduct through Denver, as an example, while also maintaining the existing highways, do not vote for these measures.

It's the voters' judgement being measured, not Heather's. Ignore the facts at your peril.

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John Fielding 4 years, 9 months ago

.

The legislature did not give us our rights.

We gave them permission to administer our laws and shared obligations.

They have abused that authority and it is appropriate to remind them of their proper role.

.

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exduffer 4 years, 9 months ago

Loss of $1.23 million over four years vs. $11.7 million for a rec center that we will put off until times are better. I know these are two seperate taxing entities but it comes down to the same basic point. How much do things cost in good times or bad and make sure you budget operating expenses accordingly. Were the mil levy increases supported by voters to expand and renovate our schools set to account for the operating cost of these projects?
We need to do better long term planning on not what we need but how we are going to pay for things.

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JLM 4 years, 9 months ago

The legislature created the referendum and initiative rights which are at the core of this matter.

We have become a nation devoid of any simple fiscal disciplines whose justification for expenditures which will ultimately bankrupt us is ---- waaaa, I WANT it! I WANT it! Waaaaa!

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

The trouble with these tax initiatives is that they start off with a decent idea (revoke TABOR overrides, reduce vehicle fees, limit borrowing) but they also include really bad ideas. You cannot cut school property taxes in half and say the state will make up the difference. It would be reasonable to limit government debt and tighten provisions so that it cannot be used to cover a general fund deficit, but it is a bad idea to simply outlaw government debt for infrastructure projects.

These initiatives are just as irresponsible as the government spending they are claiming to address.

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

Waaaa, I don't want to pay taxes. Waaaa, I expect my services. Waaaa, somebody makes more than I do. Waaaa, somebody must be punished.

Waaat the hey? How can you peddle this stuff?

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years, 9 months ago

George:

Is there a possible revenue source by charging fares for local bus service? I assume the local bus service is funded mainly via sales taxes and the occasional grant.

I would be interested in the pros and cons that you must have heard and/or debated on this issue.

Or is this cow too sacred?

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 9 months ago

Free bus service is considered a major amenity for tourists. Free bus service is claimed to be very highly appreciated by tourists and probably one of the most effective ways to encourage tourism. And it is also appreciated and benefits locals so it is double win.

Fares are also not free to collect. Not only does the driver have to wait and make sure to collect the fares, there is also the financial controls overhead and so on. I think it is considered to cost $.15 to $.25 per fare to collect the fare.

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

Here are some of the arguments for operating a free bus service:

  1. Tourist resistance to fares. Steamboat was the last ski resort in Utah and Colorado to charge for local bus service. Downtown businesses need tourist dollars while the resort needs downtown to keep Steamboat interesting.
  2. Impact on the bus service. Once you charge fares, passenger transactions slow down. You open the back door to disembark passengers, close it, then take on new passengers through the front door.
  3. Complexity of fare system. SST allowed a discounted fare for locals and other classes of passengers. How do you distinguish locals from tourists? How old is that person under their ski outfit? Are they a CMC student? What if they are from another college? How do tourists feel when everybody else is getting on free through some sort of pass?
  4. Cost of collection. Fareboxes, counting systems, security systems, and so on.
  5. Monitoring bus drivers to avoid fare shrinkage. If you don't lock down the fares, expect employee theft. Need for a monitored, safe room at the operations center to count and store fares.
  6. Desire to keep drinking drivers off the road.
  7. Desire to reduce parking demand at the ski area base.
  8. Desire to reduce automobile congestion by concentrating trips on the bus.
  9. Desire to reduce air quality impacts, particularly PM10 (particulate matter), since Steamboat Springs was a non-attainment zone.
  10. Desire to support affordable housing.
  11. Difficulty of installing fare boxes in Steamboat's narrow buses. (96" buses instead of 102" to help reduce the impact of ski racks and narrow lanes on Lincoln Avenue.)
  12. Proliferating lodge van services add to traffic in the downtown. Lodges feel it's less necessary to have their own van service if there is a free bus.

The city missed the opportunity to negotiate with the lodging community for a contribution when they eliminated fares (in 1994 or 95). Lodges were providing tokens to guests so the free bus system reduced their cost.

Since promoting business was a primary goal, using sales tax to support the bus system made sense. While I was Transportation Director, SST received approximately 1/2 cent worth of the sales tax revenues/general fund money allocated through the budget process. For comparison, during the same decade, Aspen devoted a full 1.5 cents of dedicated sales taxes to transportation plus revenues from their paid parking program.

The city council considered re-instituting fares during almost every budget cycle but always decided that the benefit wasn't worth the cost. Not a sacred cow. Just a cost-benefit analysis.

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

With respect to grants, SST receives Federal Non-urbanized area operating grants annually. These were about 10% to 15% of the annual budget in my day.

The fleet is largely dependent on Federal and state grants for vehicle replacement or fleet expansion. The last buses purchased with 100% local money were in the 1996/97 era when the fleet was becoming derelict. Fortunately, the Colorado Transit Coalition and new state programs took over and the rest of the fleet was purchased with 80% grants. (The first hybrid bus was only 50%.)

Grants also supported the remodel and expansion of the transit operations center, the Craig bus storage facility, and the Gondola Transit Center. SST received over $7.5 million in federal grants during my tenure. We did disproportionally well comparing our share of statewide grants to our share of the state population. It's always hard to predict future grant revenues. The CTC source has largely dried up but there is now state funding and federal stimulus grants. It's a competitive process subject to politics so who knows.

Counting on the grants is risky but that's the plan. The city was planning on using federal grants to support Steamboat 700 transit needs and this seemed risky to me since we'll be lucky to keep the fleet and facilities funded as it is.

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

Service to affordable housing areas has been a criteria for routing both here and in other resort communities. The bus goes up Fish Creek Falls partly because of the low cost housing complex there and bus service has been provided to West End Village even though the location, off existing bus routes, was not inherently "transit friendly." Since automobile ownership is typically the next largest expense after rent/mortgage payments, reducing the need for a family to have two cars directly affects affordability but perhaps I'm incorrect to bring these factors into a free versus fare discussion.

I should have mentioned that the regional service has a fare which pays between 1/2 and 1/3 of the cost of service, with the remainder subsidized by contributions from Routt County, Moffat County, the City of Craig, the Town of Hayden, and, of course, the City of Steamboat Springs.

All of my information is dated, since I left the city in March 2007, but I expect I'm still in the ballpark. Philo Shelton and Jonathan Flint are running the show now.

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sledneck 4 years, 9 months ago

Duke, No, I do not support medical marijuana. I support abolishing the FDA. It's my damn business which drugs, foods, drinks I ingest, NOT the governments! And before you start I would state, on a polygraph machine, that I do not regularly use marijuana or any other illegal substance. But if I want to, again, it's MY business. A veiled accusation that I am a doper because you disagree with my statement about taxes is a BS cheap shot, but I'm cool with it.

George, Duke, The SEC watched porn on our time while the financial crisis occured. The government purchased, in one year, $100 million worth of airline tickets that went UNUSED! San Jose spent $725,000 for a school pizza machine; since it didn't work they have taken pizza off their menu. Medicare buys shoes for foot amputee patients and walkers for parapligics. We all know I could go on with this list as fast as I could write till the world ended and not list all governments incompetence.

When we hire people to build a house for us or paint our home or sell us a car we get what we expect or we take our business elsewhere. The same should be true of government. Since government has become too big and retarded we, as citizens, have the right, indeed we have a responsibility to our posterity, to remove it from our lives.

Like a teenager who knows it all but comes to dad for $$$, government needs to be told no. Not just no but "HELL NO". When government sobers up, takes its jack-boots off our neck and returns to its constitutioinal duties it will find a supportive electorate and ample revenue.

Until then, the analogy that anti-taxers want to somehow "throw the baby out with the bathwater" is incorrect. It's not bathwater, its a corrosive, expanding poison that will destroy us all. And if the "baby" (like roads, bridges and schools) can not be seperated from the poison (waste, fraud and unconstitutional activities) then the baby needs to go out with the poison.

No sane person wants to abolish all government but if it's all or nothing we need to go back to nothing and start again.

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George Krawzoff 4 years, 9 months ago

How many ways to get what you want I use the best I use the rest I use the NME. I use anarchy 'Cause I wanna be anarchy

What a great, great song. Does Sep play it?

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sledneck 4 years, 9 months ago

summer in northwest colorado, one of Gods little gifts to us lucky few.

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seeuski 4 years, 9 months ago

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/751a63d4-66a5-11df-aeb1-00144feab49a.html "Expectations are growing that France is set to remove the right to retire at 60, as it embarks on a contentious reform of its debt-laden pension system and brings public finances back into line."

The more you follow what this Administration is doing to move us towards a Unionized Big Government run "fundamentally changed" society the more we head towards this type of lousy future. Being forced to work until you are dead of old age and sadness due to loss of freedom and the death of the soul. The Unions/pensions there and here are the death of society as we new it. Riots anyone?

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Jeff_Kibler 4 years, 9 months ago

George:

Thanks for the info. I put "charging fares" out there for debate. I'm glad you mentioned the cost of regional service and how it is subsidized. By "is this cow too sacred?" I meant is it just so sacrosanct that we cannot imagine charging fares?

Regardless, your comments were quite informative.

GO BLACKHAWKS!

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