Voters to make voices heard

Brandon Johnson

Despite what calendars say, Election Day is Tuesday. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The polling place for Craig is the Centennial Mall. For voters in Brown’s Park and Maybell, the Maybell Community Center is the polling place. Dinosaur Town Hall is the polling place for Dinosaur.

Identification is required to vote.

Voters will be asked Tuesday to decide the fate of four referendums, two on the state level and two on the county level.

In Referendum 1A, Moffat County asks voters to allow the county to keep money that would otherwise be refunded under a law from 1913. The law limits county revenues to 5.5 percent growth from one year to the next. If county revenues grow by 10 percent, for example, the county has to refund 4.5 percent.

The referendum makes it difficult for the county to rebound from rough economic times, officials say, because although revenues can grow by only 5.5 percent, they can fall by much more.

Opponents say it’s a bid to circumvent the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

If the referendum passes, it would add an estimated $962,500 to the county’s coffers by the end of 2006, county Assessor Suzanne Brinks said. The referendum would sunset in five years, and the 5.5 percent limit would be restored. Money from the referendum would be used for capital expenditures, including new equipment for the Road and Bridge Department and the Sheriff’s Office.

If the referendum fails, officials say the county would cutback on some services, including mosquito spraying and road grading.

“We are asking the people to tell us, as a Board of County Commissioners, what level of service they expect and what level of service they are willing to fund,” Commissioner Darryl Steele said.

According to the county’s figures, the referendum would cost a homeowner about $20 per $100,000 in property value during the next two years. The referendum would cost a business $72 per $100,000 of property value.

If the referendum fails, voters would not receive a refund check in the mail, but they would receive a credit toward future taxes. About 80 percent of the tax credits would go to the county’s top 10 taxpayers, all of which are energy companies. About 14 percent of the refunds would go to Moffat County residents.

Commissioners say the referendum is not a tax increase, but opponents say keeping money that would go to the taxpayer is a tax increase.

About 1B

Referendum 1B asks voters to approve a property tax increase of 1 mill to benefit Moffat County residents with mental retardation.

Horizons is a nonprofit organization that offers services to people with mental disabilities. State law allows the organization to request the tax increase.

If the referendum passes, it would cost taxpayers about $12 annually on a house worth $150,000. It would add $350,000 to Horizons’ operating budget in Moffat County.

Horizons officials say the money is needed to help six people in Moffat County on a waiting list for service.

Opponents of the measure say funding for Horizons should be done on a volunteer basis, not with a tax increase.

Referendums C, D

On the state level, voters will be asked to decide the fate of Referendums C and D.

Referendum C asks Colorado voters to forgo an estimated $3.7 billion that would otherwise be credited back to taxpayers under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

The money would be used for transportation, health care, education and pensions for police officers and firefighters.

Referendum D is a bond for capital construction projects, primarily roads and schools. The bond would be paid in part with 10 percent of the money from Referendum C. If Referendum C fails, so does D, but C can pass without D.

Supporters of the measures say the state needs the additional revenue to fund programs that have been cut back in recent years because of the recession.

Opponents say the measures are the biggest tax increase in Colorado history and the state doesn’t need more money.

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