Financial future crowded

Residents face several large-scale projects in need of funding

Various groups and local governments hope to build a recreation center, a convention center, a training center for firefighters, a new hospital, a college campus.

And there are also projects in which planning has not even begun, including a library or library expansion, a new indoor arena and a list of capital projects for local schools that comes in at just under $2 million.

Most of these community projects will require community money if they are to be realized. The new campus for Colorado Northwestern Community College will be built with state funds and money saved from the mill levy the Craig campus receives from Moffat County the college receives $945,297, or 3 mills, from county residents.

The Memorial Hospital has become a critical access hospital, a designation for rural hospitals that will add approximately $1 million to the hospital's cash flow in addition to the $13 million to $14 million TMH receives from Moffat County each year.

The additional revenue is slated to pay for the construction of a new facility through a bond process, with the total bill for the project ranging from $15 million to $25 million.

Residents in and around Craig are assessed $814.11 through mill levies for every $100,000 in property they own for government, school and fire-fighting services.

The county government receives $6.6 million annually from mill levies, the Moffat County School District $11.4 million and the City of Craig receives $853,000.

The Craig Rural Fire District receives $420,000 annually, and has an initiative to expand that allocation to $970,000 to keep the fire district operating efficiently and be able to expand for future needs while remaining solvent. The money also would be used to build a training center for firefighters.

This initiative gave rise to some questions from two residents who attended a recent presentation on the mill levy increase for the fire district can all these projects be done right now? How much money is available from local communities for these types of large-scale projects?

If the fire district initiative is passed, those within the fire district's 120 square-mile area will pay approximately $27 more per year, for a total of $841.11 annually.

For the other, more ambitious projects, the costs are considerable.

A facility built solely for recreation would cost a minimum of $11 million, city officials say. How to pay for the project is still only a blend of ideas a sales tax increase, the creation of a recreation district and fees are the most regularly discussed sources of revenue, in one combination or another.

In the most recent plans for a convention center, the cost is estimated at $7 million to $8 million.

According to Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, another option would be to combine a recreation center and convention center in the building a 2355 W. Victory Way that used to house Country General.

"By combining a rec center with a convention center, the total cost would be $5,755,000, with the net public cost being $3 million," she said. "We would look at a sales tax or a use tax or both to fund that portion."

The remaining $2.755 million would be covered by a combination of government and foundation grants, and fund-raising.

A new hospital facility, according to a recent report by TMH Chief Financial Officer Roger White, would be paid for through additional revenue from it's recent critical access designation and $3 million in grants and donations. This money can completely fund the construction of a $15-million to $18-million facility. The project would be financed through a federally secured Housing and Urban Development bonds, White said.

Plans for a new college campus move forward in August when the college purchased 100 acres on Moffat County Road No. 7 for $275,000 money that had been acquired and saved from CNCC-Craig's budget. The college plans to continue saving money toward the cost of the construction, which could being in four or five years.

State funds, collected in taxes, are anticipated to cover a large portion of the costs in the main strategy that college officials are reviewing. CNCC Vice President Dean Hollenbeck said that pursuing a tax increase to finance the project is not an option the college or the CNCC board is looking at.

For any library changes, the minimum cost would be more than $1 million. A renovation of the library would cost $1 million to $1.4 million, according to a plan created in late 1998, Raftopoulos said, and could probably be covered by grants and funding that already exists for capital projects.

The long wish lists of community entities have some residents worried.

These projects, and any anticipated and unanticipated costs to taxpayers, are too much to ask for all in the same time frame, said Linda Booker, one of the residents who attended the fire district meeting Monday.

"We have to take into consideration that a lot of people in our area are on a fixed income," Booker said. "That's something we always have to consider, along with none of these projects have a potential to increase incomes. Every time taxes are raised, it's just that much more that is taken from everyone's pocket.

"It's one thing to say our infrastructure needs repair, and the money isn't there because of the utilities being devalued. It's much different to say that recreation is necessary, and with the schools needing work, that will certainly be looked at as a priority. These projects are being pushed by different people, but they're not looking at the big picture or what people are already paying. The public's attitude is that they don't want to pay more taxes."

With economic development being initiated, it would make sense to see if an expanded economy could help fund some of these projects in the future, Booker said.

The election for the proposed fire district mill levy increase is May 7, and should be considered an infrastructure need, Craig Fire Chief Roy Mason said.

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