Election Guide 2013: Morrison Creek water district pursues additional revenue in Referendum 5A
October 16, 2013
Shall Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District taxes be increased $53,415 (first full fiscal year dollar increase) annually or such lesser amount as necessary for the district’s general fund purposes, by the imposition of ad valorem property taxes of 30 mills in fiscal year 2014 and in each fiscal year thereafter for as long as the district continues in existence, such authorization to constitute a voter-approved revenue change, which may be collected, retained and spent by the district without regard to any spending, revenue-raising or other limitation contained in Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution, the limits imposed on increases in property taxation by section 29-1-301, C.R.S. in any year or any other law, which purports to limit the district’s revenues or expenditures, all without limiting in any year the amount of other revenues that may be collected, retained and spent by the district?
Steamboat Springs — The Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District, which serves the Stagecoach area, is coming to voters for the second consecutive year seeking additional revenue for its looming financial challenges.
"The bottom line is the district is faced with significant capital outlays," said Ken Burgess, the district's treasurer.
The wastewater treatment plant is 40 years old, said District Manager Steve Colby, and the vast majority of the system was installed in the 1970s in anticipation of lots of property tax revenue. But the full dream for Stagecoach never came to fruition, and now the district is burdened with aging infrastructure and declining property tax revenues.
Last year, the district went before voters asking to impose a mill levy to stabilize its revenue. The measure was defeated.
The ballot issue before voters Nov. 5 is a tax increase. The increase would be $53,415 for the first fiscal year.
"The board decided they wanted to go for a fixed 30 mills," Colby said. "They wanted to recoup some of the lost revenue."
"The situation hasn't changed much," Burgess said about the year since the last ballot measure. "We are burning up our reserves and need to stop the bleeding."
A meeting was held Aug. 15 at the Stagecoach fire station where the district's board gave a presentation about the situation, and every property owner was notified, Colby said.
"There were a lot of questions," he said. "There certainly were some people who were opposed."
Property owners who pay into the district through property taxes but do not have service connections were wondering why they should vote to pay more, Colby said.
"The answer is much larger: You have to have a healthy water and sanitation district for a future of Stagecoach," Colby said.
"It was very thoughtful," Burgess said about the meeting. "We had an awful lot of good questions. People understood the district was getting hammered hard."
In addition to the wastewater plant needing replacement, the district also is in the process of rehabbing water and sewer lines.
Burgess said the effect of the proposed property tax increase would vary widely for Stagecoach property owners from minimal changes for the owners of the many empty lots in the area to more substantial increases for single family homeowners.
An increase in service fees also was proposed, he said, in an attempt to spread the pain as equitably as possible. The increase, which is separate from the ballot issue, would potentially add about $84 per year to customers' bills.
"We're trying to do due diligence and get ahead of the game," Burgess said.