With Horizons asking voters for a tax increase to benefit people with mental disabilities, some voters are asking the organization why it's spending thousands of dollars on a political campaign instead of clients.
Horizons spent $16,683.51 campaigning for Referendum 1B from Aug. 16 to Oct. 23, according to expense reports filed with the Colorado secretary of state. By the campaign's end, Horizons officials say they expect to spend about $20,000 rallying support.
Referendum 1B asks voters for a mill levy to benefit people with mental disabilities. The referendum would cost homeowners about $12 annually on a house worth $150,000. Horizons would see its operating budget increase by about $350,000 in Moffat County.
Horizons is a nonprofit organization offering services to people with mental disabilities. Services include day care and job placement. State law allows the organization to request the tax increase.
The issue on the Nov. 1 ballot.
Some voters have raised concerns about Horizons spending thousands on the campaign instead of clients, but the concerns have not been widespread, said Susan Kime, Horizons coordinator of adult programs in Moffat County.
In a letter to the Craig Daily Press earlier this month, Rene' Littlehawk-Calicura, a Horizons employee who opposes the mill levy, said the money being spent campaigning for the referendum could be better spent on Horizons' clients. Littlehawk-Calicura on Friday declined to comment.
Horizons, which receives funding from the state, said it has not used taxpayer money to campaign for the referendum.
Horizons is funding its campaign with the profits of a sale of one of its group homes in Craig and money donated specifically for the campaign, officials say.
By state law, Horizons is required to report its expenditures and contributions to the state. Election officials received the most recent report Friday. Horizons must submit its final report to the state Dec. 3.
Some Horizons employees have campaigned during work hours, said Executive Director Susan Mizen said. But those employees work additional hours to compensate for time spent campaigning, Mizen said.
No matter the outcome of the election, Mizen said the money spent on the campaign is worth it.
"Even if 1B fails, we feel like we have gotten a lot more information into the community about what we do and who we help," Mizen said. "And that can only be good."
Horizons has a 15-person waiting list and needs a consistent funding source, Mizen said.
A mill levy would provide that constant source, she said.
Horizons is funded by grants and fundraisers. But those one-time funding sources won't help people on the waiting list, Mizen said.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.