UPDATED: Colorado River District tax hike passes easily | PostIndependent.com
YOUR AD HERE »

UPDATED: Colorado River District tax hike passes easily

By Heather Sackett
Aspen Journalism
Water from the Colorado River flows through the Grand Valley Irrigation Company’s canal near Palisade, shown in a file photo. Pitkin County commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday opposing the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s proposed tax increase.
RESULTS BY COUNTY:
  • Eagle County: 75% YES
  • Summit County: 69% YES
  • Garfield County: 75% YES
  • Grand County: 72% YES
  • Moffat County: 61% YES
  • Routt: 76% YES

Western Slope voters have overwhelmingly passed a proposal by the Colorado River Water Conservation District to raise property taxes across its 15-county region.

According to preliminary results as of 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, encompassing about 240,000 ballots, about 72% of voters said yes to the measure. Saguache County was the lone county to vote against the measure. 

Pitkin County voters passed ballot question 7A with more than 80% in favor, despite three of five county commissioners and Pitkin County’s representative to the River District board John Ely opposing the measure. Nearly 70% of voters in Mesa County, which has the largest population base in the district, supported the measure.

The River District announced that the measure had received voter approval in a news release at 7:55 p.m. Tuesday, saying the organization is ready to get to work implementing water projects across the district.

River District general manager Andy Mueller said the results prove that water is the one issue that can unite voters in western Colorado.

“It was the one issue that’s not partisan, that was about uniting a very politically diverse region,” he said. “Everybody is so sick of the nasty, divisive, partisan politics. People with (Donald) Trump signs and (Joe) Biden signs voted for the same thing.”

Ballot measure 7A raises property taxes by a half-mill, or an extra $1.90 per year for every $100,000 of residential home value. The measure will raise nearly an additional $5 million annually for the River District, which says it will use the money for fighting to keep water on the Western Slope, protecting water supplies for Western Slope farmers and ranchers, protecting drinking water for Western Slope communities, and protecting fish, wildlife and recreation.

According to numbers provided by the River District, the mill levy will increase to $40.28 from $18.93 annually for Pitkin County’s median home value, which at $1.13 million is the highest in the district. In Garfield County,  where the median home value is $362,797, the mill levy will increase to $12.97 from $6.10 annually.

Property owners can expect to see the mill-levy increase on their 2021 tax bill.

The proposal received wide support among county commissioners, agricultural organizations and environmental groups.

Eagle County Commissioner and River District board member Kathy Chandler-Henry, who also served as vice-chair of the political action committee Yes on 7A, said it would have been nearly impossible for the River District to protect Western Slope water without the tax increase. 

“I’m glad people throughout the district saw the value in that, even though it’s a tough time to be asking for a tax increase,” she said. “I think that’s a huge win and a huge vote of confidence in the work the River District’s been doing.”

The River District, based in Glenwood Springs and created by the state legislature in 1937 to develop and protect water supplies in western Colorado, spans Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Gunnison, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Routt, Moffat, Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Hinsdale and Saguache counties.

The River District’s fiscal implementation plan for the revenue that would be raised by the tax hike says 86% would go toward funding water projects backed by roundtables and local communities. Those projects would fall into five categories: productive agriculture; infrastructure; healthy rivers; watershed health and water quality; and conservation and efficiency.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more updates.

Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit, investigative news organization covering water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. For more, go to aspenjournalism.org.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.
 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User