Voters reject Referendum 1B

Moffat County voters Tues-day defeated a tax increase that would have paid for services for people with mental retardation.

Taxpayers voted against Referendum 1B in a 1,782 to 1,508 vote, or 54 percent to 46 percent, according to complete unofficial results

The 1-mill property tax increase would have been used to fund services at Horizons Specialized Services.

If voters had approved 1B, it would have cost about $12 annually on a house valued at $150,000. Horizons' operating budget would have increased by about $350,000 in Moffat County.

Horizons is a nonpro-fit organization of--fering services to people with mental disabilities, including those with mental retardation. Services include day care and job placement.

Colorado's Taxpayers Bill of Rights allows organizations such as Horizons to ask for a mill levy to benefit people with mental retardation.

At the "Campaign to Help" celebration at Country Living Realty on Tuesday, 1B supporters said they were disappointed.

Referendum 1B trailed after early voting and absentee ballots came in, but Horizons employee and Craig resident Tracy Sheldon said she held out hope.

"We always continued to hope," Sheldon said. "In our business, our life is about hope."

Horizons counselor David Ferrari said the outcome was disappointing and disheartening.

With the additional funding, Horizons officials hoped to provide services to six people on its waiting list. There are 15 people on the list, but only six need services immediately.

Without the additional $350,000, officials say people on the waiting list would have to continue waiting.

Although the referendum failed, Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen said some good would come out of the campaign.

"I hope that we have given people in the community a lot more information about what we do and who we help, and those things can only benefit us," Mizen said.

Moffat County residents aren't keen on tax increases. In recent years, voters have rejected tax increases for the fire department and a recreation center.

"We were told by many people it would be an uphill battle in Moffat County," Sheldon said, but organization officials hoped voters would see the people Horizons helps and approve the tax increase.

Horizons asked for the referendum because state funding, which makes up 80 percent of its budget, isn't keeping up with costs. State funding has increased by about 2 percent in the past four years, and operating costs such as food, rent and gas, have gone up by more than 10 percent, officials said.

Although the organization serves five counties, about half of the agency's work is in Moffat County.

In Moffat County, Horizons serves about 70 clients, ages 5 and younger and older than 21.

Routt County voters passed a similar mill levy Tuesday. Money from the Moffat County mill levy would have stayed in Moffat County, and Routt County money will stay in Routt County.

"It is hard to be happy about Routt County when we didn't get it passed in Moffat," Mizen said.

Similar mill levies have passed in Denver, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer and Boulder counties.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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