Morrison Creek water district mill levy defeated
November 5, 2013
Steamboat Springs — For the second year in a row, the Morrison Creek Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District went to voters seeking revenue for impending financial challenges.
And for the second straight year, voters said “no.”
Referendum 5A, which asked for a fixed 30 mill increase — or $53,415 for the first fiscal year — was defeated Tuesday, with 54.05 percent voting against it. Of the 333 votes cast, 180 opposed the measure.
"It is disappointing," said Ken Burgess, the district's treasurer. "We have to figure out what to do next. The board is determined not to sit still. We'll move forward and plan ahead for the future."
The wastewater treatment plant is 40 years old with most of the system installed in the 1970s.
When constructed, there was an anticipation of abundant tax revenue, but that revenue fell short when plans for Stagecoach never fully developed.
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The district now is burdened with an aging infrastructure and declining property tax revenue. At an Aug. 15 district board meeting, property owners were notified of the pending problems. Several property owners who pay property taxes but don't have service connections voiced concern about paying more.
The mill levy would have been used to replace the wastewater plant and to rehab water and sewer lines.
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 in an attempt to spread the cost as equally as possible. The increase, which is separate from the ballot issue, potentially would add about $84 per year to customers' bills.
Last year's referendum asked voters to bump the current 20-mill cap to 50 mills.
Burgess said the situation isn't dire, but without addressing the situation now, the district will continue to burn through its reserves.
He said the board would continue discussing the district’s future but couldn't provide any concrete plans as of Tuesday evening.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 19.
"We'll discuss the results of the election," Burgess said. "We'll begin to think how to move forward and try to keep the reserves from draining. This board isn't willing to wait and take it as it comes. We're more proactive than that."