Ouray County Voters: ‘Yes’ to Incumbents, ‘No’ to Sales Tax Hike
by Samantha Wright
Nov 07, 2013 | 2894 views | 0 0 comments | 38 38 recommendations | email to a friend | print
YOUNG VOTERS - They may not be able to legally vote but these Ouray 3rd and 4th graders voiced their opinion anyway in a mock vote on Election Day. Pictured are Rock Gibbs (top) and Luna Sandoval (bottom). (Photo courtesy of Jenny Hart)
YOUNG VOTERS - They may not be able to legally vote but these Ouray 3rd and 4th graders voiced their opinion anyway in a mock vote on Election Day. Pictured are Rock Gibbs (top) and Luna Sandoval (bottom). (Photo courtesy of Jenny Hart)
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OURAY COUNTY – Incumbent candidates sailed to victory across the board in races for Ouray City Council, Ouray School Board and Ridgway School Board the 2013 Ouray County Coordinated Election, while a countywide sales tax question went down in flames, according to unofficial results posted late Tuesday night. 

Voter turnout was moderate at 59.27 percent – not bad for an “off-year”, according to County Clerk Michelle Nauer – with 2,142 of 3,614 registered Ouray County voters casting ballots. In spite of the fact that it was a mail-in election, about 10 percent of the votes were cast, or delivered to the courthouse, on election day. 

Incumbent John Ferguson easily won a second term on the Ouray City Council, earning 211 votes, or 25.75 percent of the total votes cast among five candidates for two vacant seats. Ferguson was appointed to council in 2010, and recently rose to the position of Mayor Pro Tem. “It’s nice to be elected now, versus being an appointed councilman,” Ferguson said. “I am eager to continue learning and growing as a councilman; I do appreciate the Ouray voters supporting my willingness to continue to work with councilors and staff to make our fair city a vibrant community and move forward.” 

Candidate Glenn Boyd, who at 32 years old was by far the youngest Ouray City Council candidate and campaigned as “a voice for the average citizen,” won the other seat with 198 votes or 24.06 percent of total votes cast.  “I am excited and humbled that the citizens put their trust in me,” Boyd said. “I love Ouray and I’m ready to get to work.”

In the race for three vacancies on the Ouray School Board, incumbent Don Mort, a retired teacher, got 458 votes, or 26.29 percent of the total votes cast, thus winning his reelection bid. Candidate Jennifer Fedel was close behind with 450 votes or 25.83 percent. Candidate Jane Ross won the third vacant seat with 428 votes, or 24.57 percent. Fedel is the wife of the term-limited board president Mike Fedel, and Ross previously served on the Ouray School Board for 10 years, so all three winning candidates bear a mantle of familiarity for Ouray School District voters.

In an election year that could have radically reshaped the make-up of the Ridgway School Board, with four of five seats up for grabs, incumbents Bart Skalla and Steve Larivee will also retain their positions. Skalla emphatically won his bid for a second, four-year term, getting the most votes (490 votes, or 19.2 percent of total votes cast) out of the seven candidates running for three open four-year seats, while incumbent Steve Larivee, a former principal from the Telluride School District vying for an elected two-year term after being appointed to his position on the Ridgway School Board, came out on top in his race with 542 votes, or 55.48 percent of total votes cast. Rounding out the field of winners in the race for three open four-year seats on the Ridgway School Board were candidates Greg Lawler (467 votes, 18.3 percent) and Heather Yeowell (403 votes, 15.79 percent). 

Almost 58 percent of Ouray County voters said no to Ballot Issue 1A. The ballot question was soundly defeated by a vote of 1,242-872. Crafted by a group of four elected county officials who were concerned about how Ouray County’s dwindling property tax revenues will impact the level of services the county offers, the ballot question proposed a .75 percent countywide sales tax increase to create a “Public Health and Safety Fund”, sunsetting in 2024.

Its prospects were rocky from the start, with only two of three county commissioners voting in favor of placing it on the ballot, and both the City of Ouray and Town of Ridgway vocally opposing the county’s attempt to make a grab for coveted sales tax revenues. If it had passed, county officials estimated that the new tax would would have brought in an additional $387,000 annually to the county coffers for the next 10 years.

The money would have been used to offset a steep reduction in county property tax revenues – the result of a downward trend in assessed property values that has hit Ouray County’s coffers like a slow-moving tsunami over the past two years, threatening the county’s ability to continue offering the services it is mandated to provide. 

Funds would have been specifically earmarked for a new “Public Health and Safety Fund” to cover county expenses from budget line items including the public health nurse, emergency manager/coordinator, coroner, dispatch, search and rescue, fire, telecommunications, animal control and more. 

“It’s unfortunate,” said Ouray County Assessor Susie Mayfield, who was among the four elected county officials who drafted the ballot question. “We will have to look at what we can to do cut in other areas to go forward; if there are any other areas to cut. I am disappointed. But it wasn’t surprising either.”

Ouray County voters trended with the majority of Colorado voters on two statewide ballot questions, voting 1,242-872 against the failed Amendment 66 which sought to raise Colorado’s income taxes to create a new revenue stream for public schools, and voting 1,360-761 in favor of the successful Proposition AA, creating a tax on retail marijuana. 

swright@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @iamsamwright

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