Our View: Moffat has right idea
August 23, 2005
Moffat County commissioners were right to reject ballot language restricting Horizons Specialized Services’ ability to raise funds if a property tax for the agency is approved.
We wish Routt County commissioners had been as smart.
On Tuesday, Moffat commissioners reviewed the ballot language for the 1-mill property tax to support Horizons, which provides assistance to people with developmental disabilities in five area counties. Unanimously, commissioners rejected a stipulation that, if the tax passes, would prevent Horizons from seeking charitable funding without first asking the commissioners.
The commissioners correctly understand that their role in this issue is to decide whether the question is worthy of being put before voters. The commissioners made that decision last month.
What isn’t the county’s job? Telling Horizons whether it can have a bake sale, seek United Way funding or raise funds in some other way if the tax passes.
“I believe in the free enterprise system,” Commissioner Saed Tayyara said. “(Putting limits on future fundraising) is not our role. Our role is to protect tax dollars.”
If the tax is approved, commissioners indicated Tuesday they likely would adjust funding from the Moffat County Human Resource Council. That’s certainly logical and appropriate, and it’s about as far as commissioners need to go in dealing with Horizons funding.
Unfortunately, commissioners in Routt County have a different view. Earlier this month, commissioners approved the language for the same tax question in Routt County. That language includes the stipulation that Horizons ask commissioners for permission to do local fundraising if the tax is approved.
Routt County Com-mis-sioner Nancy Stahoviak said that because Horizons would have a stable funding source if the tax passes, it would be only fair for other human-service agencies to benefit from the donations Horizons once received.
We understand Stahoviak’s reasoning. It’s just that such reasoning is flawed.
Not only did Routt County commissioners overstep their authority by including the stipulation, they sold their own voters short. The stipulation presumes Routt County taxpayers aren’t smart enough to decide for themselves what effect a Horizons tax should have on their charitable giving.
Denver, Douglas, Jef-ferson, Larimer, Boulder and Arap-ahoe counties are seeking similar taxes this fall to support people who have developmental disabilities. None include a stipulation such as Routt County’s.
If the Horizons tax is approved in Moffat County, it will provide the agency with about $390,000 in funds. If it is approved in Routt County, the tax would generate more than $800,000 for Horizons.
Horizons needs both taxes to pass to meet its funding needs, and it has a lot of work to do to sell the tax to voters. Sadly, the Routt County provision likely will create confusion and make the agency’s job more difficult.
Commissioners have a responsibility to consider care–fully what tax measures should come before voters. But there’s a limit to how far they should go in meddling in such measures. The Moffat County commissioners clearly understand such limits. It’s too bad their counterparts in Routt County don’t.