OLATHE — Richard Harding gave an alarming message to the Olathe Town Board Monday night: If a certain proposition and two amendments win voter approval on the November ballot, funding would be cut to vital services in the town and county.
“Your cemetery, sanitation services and library would all go away,” he said.
Harding, a member of the ad hoc citizens committee Concerned Citizens for Funding Our Future, now inactive, said anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce of TABOR fame is behind Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 that would drastically cut taxes to many entities, particularly those with non-elected boards.
Bruce is author of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, which restricts government growth and requires a public vote for new taxes.
Bruce has distanced himself from the proposed measures, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, which disclosed evidence that Bruce was connected to a petition effort that gathered 140,000 signatures to get the measures on the November ballot.
But if the three measures pass, they could have implications that would complicate town expenditures, Harding said.
“It says you can no longer borrow money without voter approval, and that could be a lease for a trash truck,” he said.
Before Harding spoke, town administrator Scott Harold cautioned him to be careful “not to take one side or the other.”
Harding explained that municipalities can’t take sides on the measures because of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. But he invited board members to view a one-hour “webinar” on the ballot measures prepared by the bond attorneys for Montrose County.
Harding said he has talked to the chair of the Concerned Citizens for Funding Our Future about reactivating the committee to oppose the three measures.
“We are creating a committee to oppose [the ballot measures] because the town can’t, and if you do, you can’t spend more than $50,” he said.
Harding is not alone in his concern. Gov. Bill Ritter warned in his Jan. 14 state of the state address that the three ballot measures were “the most backward thinking ballot measures this state has ever seen.”
Ritter said Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61 “would shut down colleges and prisons, increase class sizes, put thousands of teachers out of work and prevent the repair of unsafe roads and bridges.”
He didn’t stop there in his criticism of the measures, which would reduce state income tax from 4.63 to 3.5 percent.
“If these measures pass, the state could never again support building another public school, library or rec center,” he continued. “The cynical game the proponents are playing with our future would quite literally destroy the safety net and wipe out any hope of creating a better future for our children.”
The director of the Montrose Library, Paul Palidano, said he’s kept up with the three ballot measures as a member of the legislative committee of the Colorado Association of Libraries.
“Proposition 101 would eliminate one of our major revenue streams, ownership taxes, and we would basically go from $191,000 this year to $3,500 next year,” he said.
Palidano said people should be very concerned.
“I think we should pay attention,” he said. “I think there needs to be more awareness and I think that’s starting right now, because these are serious issues.”
Before the meeting, Harding said that if Proposition 101 passes, it would reduce Montrose County’s income from taxes the measures would eliminate from $775,000 in 2009 to $10,000 in 2015. The county’s road and bridge income from those taxes would dip from $538,000 in 2009 to $7,500 in 2015, he said.
“You get $10,266 in specific ownership taxes, and it would go down to $144.63 in 2015 under this,” he told the Olathe town board.