"Why pay money to have your family tree traced? Go into politics and your opponents will do it for you."
CHANGED MY TUNE: NO ON 1A
In an unprecedented move, The Red Ant has reconsidered and then changed my stance on the Open Space & Trails property tax extension. It was not a matter of being questioned (harrassed?) by hundreds of readers, rather, it was a couple of very pragmatic synopses that weakened my admittedly shaky endorsement.
Change your vote on 1A to NO. Here's why: $500 million
Based on historical growth in the Pitkin County Open Space property tax, the proposed 20 year extension of the 3.75 mill levy would produce between $500 and $650 million in taxes for open space. For the past 15 years, the open space tax has accounted for over 50% of all Pitkin County property taxes -- more than the combined county property taxes for the General Fund, Roads & Bridges, Social Services, Healthy Community,TV Translator and Bond Redemption combined.
The current city of Aspen Parks and Open Space annual funding from sales taxes is $10 million, and the annual County Open Space mill levy taxes are $12 million. Given past successes, do we really need to devote over $22 million per year (and growing) in local taxes to parks and open space?
The County Open Space program, in partnership with the city, Town of Snowmass Village and others, has been highly productive with over 20,000 acres being acquired and preserved. Open space acquisitions have largely run their course as the most important lands have already been acquired, including Droste/Brush Creek, Deer Hill, Red Butte/Stein, Smuggler, North Star, Moore, Marolt, Crown, Grange, Cozy Point, among others. While there still may be some attractive parcels yet to be acquired, the largest and most important lands that are in highly visible and accessible areas have been acquired. Therefore, fewer resources are needed for ongoing acquisitions. In addition, highly restrictive county land use policies severely limit the development risk of significant tracts of land, and therefore largely assure that visual qualities will be preserved.
In recognition of past success, the Open Space property tax levy should be reviewed and redirected. More resources should be devoted to managing, maintaining and improving the large inventory of existing public open space. Given the limited opportunities for acquisition of key open space parcels that remain within the county, fewer resources should be devoted to acquisitions.
While we all value and enjoy using our parks and open space, a commitment of over $500 million in property taxation over the next two decades is simply too much. Rather than extend this tax that does not expire until 2019, VOTE NO ON 1A. We must ask county leadership to evaluate our total county tax burden and associated expenditures. The taxpayer portion should be adjusted accordingly for discretionary choices such as open space.
The Red Ant acknowledges the assistance of several people more knowledgeable than I for their invaluable assistance in clarifying this issue, especially Mike Maple. I regret the inconvenience of this change.