On Nov. 3, voters in Summit County will have the opportunity to extend a tax to support affordable housing, authorize the county to pursue construction of a new cell tower, fill open seats on school boards and decide how retail marijuana tax revenue will be spent. For Breckenridge residents, the approval of a new lift-ticket tax is on the table.
Ballot Issue No. 2A asks Breckenridge voters to approve a lift-ticket tax at Breckenridge Ski Resorts starting with the 2016-2017 ski season. The revenue would be directed to a new fund dedicated to transit and parking improvements.
If a majority of voters support the issue, Vail Resorts will be obligated to collect a 4.5-percent sales tax on all single-day and multi-day Breckenridge Ski Resort lift tickets. The tax would be applied regardless of the manner or place of purchase.
As part of a deal hammered out in late August, Vail Resorts agreed to a guaranteed annual payment of $3.5 million. This could be increased yearly by up to four percent, based on the Denver-Boulder Consumer Price Index. Also, for the next two seasons, if the collected tax amount exceeds $3.5 million, Vail Resorts could recoup the extra amount to compensate any deficits over that time.
At a Breckenridge Town Council meeting on Aug. 25, following some contentious negotiations, an agreement was reached with Vail Resorts, which had previously threatened a lawsuit if the tax went forward.
The resort corporation softened their stance when season passes, multi-resort lift-tickets and summer activities were excluded from the tax.
If future town councils expanded the lift-ticket tax to include more ski area activities or admissions, the agreement would expire — meaning Vail Resorts wouldn’t have to guarantee the $3.5 million figure, but the tax would continue.
No one spoke in opposition to the tax at the Aug. 25 meeting. Some residents claimed the tax was long overdue since the ski area has never paid lift-ticket taxes.
Breckenridge Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Burke said the tax would not impact locals who purchase season passes.
Ballot Issue No. 5A asks Summit County voters to authorize an extension of the existing workforce and affordable housing sales and use tax.
In 2006, voters approved a sales and use tax of one-eighth of one percent (0.125 percent) aimed at expanding the quality, quantity and affordability of housing in Summit County.
Between 2007 and 2014, the tax raised approximately $13.28 million to support affordable housing projects in Summit County and the towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne. About $1.7 million of the tax revenue has helped support the Summit County Combined Housing Authority.
Jennifer Kermode, executive director of SCHA, said there is a definite affordable housing crisis for many Summit County residents. According to statistics provided by the SCHA, the median price for a residence in Summit County was $121,000 in 1990 — but that has grown to about $700,000.
“Close to fifty percent of renters (in Summit County) are cost-burdened,” she said. “Meaning they are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing.”
Since 2007, the SCHA reports there were an additional 350 workforce housing units created, raising the total to about 900. Unfortunately, the progress made is at a snail’s pace compared to the predicted needs. The 2013 Summit County Workforce Housing Needs Assessment estimates between 1,700 and 3,000 additional units will be needed within five years.
Despite the uphill battle, the SCHA has aided over 2,000 people since 2007 with its various real estate and loan programs. The efforts have also positively impacted 307 area businesses.
Gary Martinez, Summit County manager, said the tax money is vital to fund land purchases by the county. For example about $2.7 million of the $3.5 million purchase price for 52-acres at the Smith Ranch in Silverthorne were provided by 5A revenue. The county is also finalizing the purchase of the 40-acre Lake Hill land parcel from the U.S. Forest Service. He estimates the project could net up to 300 new housing units but would not be completed until 2027.
The deck remains stacked against Summit County residents, or those attempting to move to the area, with limited financial resources, as Kermode explained that since the economy began improving in 2009, the demand for vacation homes has increased — couple this with diminishing land resources, a decrease in second-home owners renting their property and the ability to provide for those making below Summit Counties average median income.
“Free-market forces will not solve the problem,” she said.
Despite the obvious challenges, Tim Gagen, Breckenridge town manager, said, at the end of the day, there needs to be opportunities for locals to stay local.
“We want real neighborhoods where people can raise families,” he said.
Ballot measure 1A will ask voters to authorize Summit County to construct cell phone towers. This is a requirement of Colorado Senate Bill 152, passed in 2005, which mandates voter approval before state municipalities can devote revenue to improve local broadband service.
The county is proposing the ballot measure after years of negotiations with AT&T to build two cell towers in Summit County fizzled this summer.
The two towers were planned for 683 Landfill Road — between Keystone and Summit Cove — and 3120 Johnson Road — in the Lower Blue Basin, north of Silverthorne.
Summit County had partnered with Friends of the Lower Blue River to prepare the north Silverthorne lot, creating a four-acre road-accessible, shovel-ready subdivision. The proposed tower would provide cell service to a 20-mile stretch of land, including State Highway 9, which is used by an average of 5,000 cars on a daily basis, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
In a press release, AT&T said although it still plans to expand service in Summit County, it has relinquished its lease and zoning options on the Silverthorne 4-acre parcel, which opens the door for other companies or potentially municipalities to construct a telecommunications tower on the land.
Summit is not breaking new ground by seeking an exemption to SB 152, as three other counties and 10 municipalities have already voted to override the provision.
The contested state bill was an outgrowth of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996, which sought to foster competition in the telecommunications industry. Included in the act was Section 253 that prohibits state or local governments from restricting competition through regulating the industry.
In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court — in response to a law passed in Missouri that prevented municipalities from providing telecommunication services — declared in Nixon v. Municipal League that Section 253 does not apply to laws that prevent municipalities, as opposed to private companies, from providing telecommunications services.
This legal precedent opened the door for increased restrictions on local governments involvement with the telecommunications industry. In addition to Colorado’s passage of SB 152, Nebraska passed an overall ban on local governments providing telecommunication services. In total, about one third of states have adopted similar restrictions.
Critics have pointed out that, despite traditional carriers not serving the telecommunication needs in Summit County, lobbying efforts have made it more difficult for counties to address its own needs.
Voter approval would be the first step for the county to attempt to acquire construction funds a public-private partnership or state grants.
SUMMIT COUNTY AND CMC SCHOOL BOARD
A. SUMMIT SCHOOL DISTRICT
There are five candidates vying for the four open seats on the Summit School District Board of Education. The seven-member board oversees six elementary schools, Summit Middle School, Summit High School and Snowy Peaks High School.
In 2014, the district served about 3,300 students and had an operating budget of approximately $63 million.
The candidates are: Cindy Bargell, Terry Craig, Mark Franke, Lisa Webster and incumbent Sue Wilcox. With the exception of Craig, all candidates have children currently attending school in Summit County.
Incumbent Wilcox, who expressed an affinity for the details of education policy, said if re-elected, she would make it a priority to continue the district’s work to address mental health concerns. She also would like to help English as second language students improve academically. Her background includes 25 years with the Keystone Policy Center and two decades of involvement with local schools.
Bargell is a lawyer who resides near Silverthorne and has more than 10 years of involvement with school PTIs and local nonprofit boards.
From her perspective, the district should increase its focus on tackling behavioral and mental health issues, especially suicide prevention. She noted that the district faces challenges with testing and capital improvements.
Craig, who lives near Keystone and has resided in Summit County since 1978, said she would bring an outsiders perspective to the school board and has ample time to devote to committee membership.
The wife of Keystone Policy Center founder Bob Craig, the well-known community figure has taught at Keystone Science School, owned a local art gallery for decades and been a member of the Snake River Basin Planning Commission and the Summit County Open Space Advisory Board.
Franke, a full-time Frisco resident for the last six years, manages a small technology business. He said addressing student’s needs for technology, community communications, early childhood education and career and technical opportunities for secondary students would be his primary goals.
Webster said her career in the U.S. Air Force sharpened her organizational, leadership and strategic planning skills — all of which would be assets if elected.
She moved to Summit five years ago and during that time has helped found Summit Advocates for Gifted Education and, this year, helped coordinate the district’s new summer school program.
Areas of focus mentioned by her include emphasizing 21st century skills, stress coping techniques, arts opportunities and academic rigor.
B. COLORADO MOUNTAIN COLLEGE
One open seat on the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees is being contested, while candidates for three other openings are running unopposed.
Voters in all six counties of CMC’s district vote to elect the seven at-large trustees, with one resident elected from Eagle, Lake, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties and two trustees representing Garfield County.
The contested seat is in eastern Garfield County where incumbent Kathy Goudy faces off against challenger Jon Warnick.
During her last four years as a trustee, Goudy assisted with the hiring of CMC’s president, Carrie Besnette Hauser, and helped create the schools new strategic plan, which debuted last year.
An attorney who moved to Carbondale in 1999, Goudy is running on a platform of inclusiveness for residents across CMC’s districts and stronger utilization of resources at the various campuses. She strives for budgetary transparency and advocates for lifelong learning classes.
Warnick retired to the Carbondale area in 1998 after a lengthy career with IBM that included decades of business experience in Asia. He holds degrees in engineering, business and law, and has continued to take courses at CMC over the last 15 years.
As a member of the CMC Foundation, the college’s fundraising arm, he served as the boards treasurer and chair. His three-part platform is focused on: community integration, educational excellence and affordability.
In Summit County, longtime resident Patty Theobald is running unopposed to replace Bob Taylor, the county’s current representative who has opted to not run again.
Theobald, who first came to Summit in 1969, lives near Breckenridge and holds a degree in early childhood education. She has 14 years of experience in education consulting. She is the current chair of the CMC Foundation board and has worked on the raising funds for at the Breckenridge campus.
In addition to strengthening partnerships with local businesses and working with the Latino community, she wants to maintain low tuition rates for in-district students. She thinks this is best accomplished with a strong balance of out-of-district and out-of-state students.
The remaining two candidates are incumbents, Pat Chlouber (Lake County) and Ken Brenner (Routt County). The other three board members, who were elected for four-year terms in 2013, are Charles Cunniffe (Pitkin County), Glenn Davis (Eagle County) and Mary Ellen Denomy (West Garfield County).
The board generally meets every other month at rotating CMC locations. Its responsibilities include employing and evaluating the president, approving the college budget (roughly $60 million in 2015), establishing college goals and monitoring progress.
CMC now offers five bachelor’s degrees, various associate’s degrees, vocational certificates, training programs and non-credit courses across its 11 locations. The Summit County campus — which includes Breckenridge and Dillon locations — is home to CMC’s culinary institute; business, nursing and sustainability bachelor’s degrees; and outdoor education, emergency medical services, early childhood education and English as a second language programs.
Proposition BB, the Colorado Marijuana TABOR refund measure, will appear on ballots statewide. The outcome will dictate how $66 million collected from taxes on retail marijuana is allocated.
If the measure receives voter approval, the state will retain the funds. On the other hand, if voters reject Proposition BB, approximately $24 million would be reimbursed to retail marijuana cultivators and $17 million would be refunded to retail cannabis consumers through a short-term reduction on marijuana taxes. Also, regardless of marijuana purchases, all Coloradoans who filed a 2015 state income tax return would get a share of the remaining $25 million. The state estimates this could be as little as $8, based on income levels, but at best would be less than $40.
The decision is being presented to votes due to TABOR, or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which requires the state to estimate both statewide revenue and that specifically from retail cannabis taxes. The states estimates for marijuana taxes were about $1 million over actual figures, which doesn’t trigger the election requirements.
Overall revenue, estimated at $12.08 billion, was about $270 million over that figure, at $12.35 billion. If either estimate is exceeded, the state would be required to refund the entire amount collected from the new tax unless the majority of voters approve Proposition BB.
If Colorado is allowed to retain the $66 million, school construction will see a boon, as the state would bolster the public school capital assistance fund by $40 million.
Also $12 million would be divided among the following groups and causes, many related to substance abuse issues.
• $2.5 million - marijuana education and prevention campaigns
• $2 million – school bullying prevention grant
• $2 million – school drop out prevention grant
• $2 million – youth mentoring services
• $1 million – funding for poison-control centers
• $1 million – local government marijuana impact grants
• $300,000 – Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs
• $200,000 – roadside impaired-driving training for police
The remaining funds would be maintained in the general fund.
State Rep. Millie Hamner said in a recent letter to the editor that a constitutional hiccup with TABOR tax limits would force the state to return the money to marijuana merchants and consumers.
“Proposition BB, which is on the ballots arriving in our mailboxes this week, would allow the people of Colorado to invest marijuana tax revenue for schools and safety, which are the purposes the people intended when they legalized marijuana,” she wrote.