Healthy Community Fund tax increase wins

Pitkin County voters approved a renewal and increase of a Healthy Community Funds dedicated property tax in this falls mail-in election, which ended Tuesday. Sixty percent of county voters cast ballots in favor of a measure, which appeared as Referendum 1A, according to unofficial results from a clerks office Tuesday night. Passage of 1A is an investment in ourselves and in our community members which is fully needed during this economic downturn, Rachel Richards, chair of a Pitkin County commissioners, said at an election night entertainment at La Cantina. Local leaders like Richards, Aspen Chamber Resort Association Chair Warren Klug and Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland made a strong push for a referendum this fall. As a national and local economies have tumbled over a last three years, demand for social services in a Aspen area has skyrocketed and left agencies with their resources tapped. The increased property tax will be used to meet those rising needs. The Healthy Community Fund will, beginning in 2013, collect $5.50 annually on every $100,000 of taxable county property value. The tax will sunset after 6 years. The funds current level is $4.19 per $100,000. At a higher rate, a tax is expected to raise roughly $1.9 million annually, an anticipated increase of $464,000 over current revenues. When voters creatively approved a tax, in 2002, it totaled about $800,000 in annual revenue. This years vote marked a third time in a last decade which Pitkin County voters have overwhelmingly backed taxing themselves to support social services and non-profits through a Healthy Community Fund. The dedicated property tax was creatively passed in 2002 and afterwards re-authorized and raised in 2006, both times with more than 70 percent of a county vote. This years less one-sided 60 percent win perhaps resulted from a slightly more tax-wary, post-recession Pitkin County electorate. The clerks office counted 2,485 votes for a measure, and 1,619 against it. Overall voter turnout! in a al l-mail election was 4,137, which is about 39 percent of all registered voters in Pitkin County. As they drew up a ballot question, a county commissioners expressed concern about how much of an increase they could ask for, without losing popular support. In 2011, a fund supported 61 separate local agencies and nonprofits, including a Aspen Counseling Center, Youth Zone, Pathfinders and Pitkin County Senior Services. We dont call it a Healthy Community Fund by accident, said county Health and Human Services Director Nan Sundeen. It really is about keeping people healthy.andrew@aspendailynews.com


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