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60, 61 and 101 would hurt county PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Dear Editor,

We want to express our position on Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101, three state ballot issues. We oppose all three issues and ask readers to consider voting NO on each.

Amendment 60 would allow non-resident property owners to vote on local ballot issues. It would also invalidate all previous elections on TABOR issues from the last 18 years, overriding local approval for many districts in the county to keep revenue beyond the TABOR limit.

Mill levy increases already go to the voters. It would require enterprises such as our local hospitals to pay property tax on their facilities, raising their cost of operation substantially.

Amendment 60 would require any future TABOR override to expire in four years and would require school districts to phase out one-half of their current mill levy by 2020, with the state designated to backfill revenue loss.

In 2009 and 2010, the state did not have enough money to fund what the school districts were promised and rescinded money from both the Haxtun and Holyoke school districts. We do not think the state will have enough funds to backfill the funding loss.

Amendment 61 affects how the state and local governments finance large projects. It requires a vote on all borrowing (already required) but expands that to lease-purchase agreements or borrowing that may last less than a year.

It specifies bonding as the only financing mechanism available, which costs significantly more than some other forms. It sets the total debt limit at 10 percent of assessed value and requires bonds to be paid off in 10 years or less.

Large projects like schools, community buildings and sewer treatment plants generally cannot be paid for in 10 years due to the cost. The 10 percent limit is a significant reduction in how much a district currently might be able to obtain for a project.

Current caps are from 20 to 50 percent, depending on the district. Amendment 61 essentially would force all Colorado governments to do business on a cash basis, even for a new hospital, a new courthouse or a new water treatment plant.

Melissa Memorial Hospital, for instance, still has 22.5 years of financing left on its new facility. Most individuals cannot operate on a cash basis for large assets. When purchasing a new home, a buyer typically gets a 20- to 30-year mortgage. Government is no different. Colorado governments need the flexibility to pay over time.

Proposition 101 would significantly lower fees for automobile licensing and registration, back to levels charged in 1919. This income currently helps maintain state roads and bridges. Trying to build a mile of road in 2010 with revenue sources at 1919 levels makes no sense.

Estimates indicate that Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will lose 25 percent of its revenue under 101. CDOT is already unable to adequately maintain Colorado’s highway system. What will it be like if it loses 25 percent of current revenue?

The county and towns of Phillips County would jointly lose close to $900,000 in Highway Users Tax funds. The County would lose about 40 percent of our road and bridge income. We currently struggle with buying any new road equipment. If this drastic reduction is approved, a county workforce reduction may become necessary.

Proposition 101 would also reduce the state income tax 1.13 percent over the next 10 years. The state would lose $1.2 billion in revenue with full implementation. The state is already stretched to the limit and trying to find ways to cut approximately one billion in 2010.

We agree that our governments, both state and local, need to be efficient and have as small an impact on people’s lives as possible. These proposed changes, however, will devastate the capabilities of our local governments. Elected members of governing boards provide services for the public, but they need flexibility–not constraints that box them in at every turn.

These three issues, if passed, would have grave consequences for most governments in our state. Passage of these would take away local control from your elected board members. These reverse many of your votes from years past and significantly impact revenue streams that are needed just to maintain current operations.

Yes, passage would save you taxes personally, for a short time, but at the cost of crippling local governments and their ability to provide essential services to you and your family.

Every major newspaper in the state has endorsed a NO vote on these three issues. The Phillips County hospitals, school boards, municipalities and the county have all urged a NO vote. For the continued good of Colorado and Phillips County, please help defeat these destructive issues and vote NO.

Respectfully submitted,
Jerry Beavers,
Susan Roll Walters and
Quentin “Bud” Biesemeier