Community members concerned about Hot Sulphur Springs ballot questions
Grand County, Colorado
A couple concerned Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado, residents attended the Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 16 worried about rates increasing when the economy is at an all-time low.
Board members agreed it is not an ideal time to increase charges but said they have no choice. The community was forced to boil water for two months this summer, and the board and community members agreed improvements are necessary.
Hot Sulphur Springs resident Jeff Green raised some questions at the meeting .
“What’s the plan for the increases?” he asked. “There needs to be a plan. I am for this stuff. I want to get it done.”
If residents are going to vote down any issues at election time they should do it at the federal level, he added.
Hot Sulphur Spring has placed three questions on the November ballot.
The first would eliminate a 5.5 percent limit on the amount property tax revenues can grow from year to year, without changing the tax levy. Property taxes are only allowed to increase 5.5 percent, but in 2008 the town exceeded its allowed revenue by about $21,000 and must refund this money in 2009 by reducing the town’s mill levy, unless voters allow the town to keep the funds.
The second and third questions focus on allowing the town to go into debt in order to improve the water system and roads.
The town has spent $300,000 fixing the water system and plant and plans to spend another $200,000 in the next couple months. An engineer has estimated Hot Sulphur Springs needs to spend $3.5 million to $4 million to repair the water system.
The town received a $200,000 grant to deal with the water crisis and is requesting more than $2.3 million from state and federal grant sources. The cost would fund water storage, and take pressure off the water plant so the town can use water outside.
To get these grants the town need’s to provide matching funding. Town residents must approve some of these options for that to be possible.
The town could raise water and sewer rates from $64 to $93 a month to give the town more money for operations. This would allow the town to borrow up to $1.5 million for water system improvements. The board will decide if it will raise the water and sewer rates, and in November residents will vote to determine if the town can borrow money.
The board is also asking voters to double the town’s property tax. The town gets around $80,000 a year from property taxes. About $30,000 would go toward town operations and ongoing expense. And $50,000 would be used to borrow up to $650,000 for water or road improvements.
A homeowner who’s assessed value is $300,000 would pay an additional $600 a year, or $50 a month, under the higher mill levy. Businesses with an assessed value of $500,000 will owe an additional $1,500 a year, or $125 a month.
“Everybody is really up-in-arms about the questions on the ballot,” said resident Heather Peck. “I don’t know if I can afford that. What I am hearing from people, it is not a matter of need, it’s a question of ‘whether or not I can afford it?’ “
Hot Sulphur Springs contract Town Manager Chuck Reid agreed that it is a tough time to time to ask residents for more money.
” Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or email@example.com.
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