OURAY COUNTY – The Ouray County Commissioners have done the math and on August 12 they detailed just how bad the so-called “Bad 3” ballot initiatives would be for local funding of the road and bridge fund, emergency medical services, social services, Sheriff’s Department and indeed all services provided by Ouray County.
The three resolutions passed by the county addressed proposed amendments 60 and 61 regarding property taxes and public borrowing, and Proposition 101 regarding motor vehicle fees and ownership taxes.
Should the statewide initiatives pass, revenue would be cut so dramatically, the resolutions posit, that the county would be forced to slash basic services to untenable, dangerous levels.
For example, if Amendment 60 were to pass, property tax revenues to the county would be reduced by an estimated $674,000 per year. The losses to the General Fund, which derives 53 percent of its annual budget from property taxes (affecting the Sheriff’s Office, Clerk and Recorder, Treasurer, Assessor, Coroner, public health, land use, fairgrounds and event center, weed management and all other administrative functions of the county) would mean a “significant reduction in staff hours and a corresponding reduction in services and office hours.”
The approximately $77,000 loss to the Road and Bridge Fund would result in “a progressive deterioration of driving surfaces. . . delays in snow removal and application of magnesium chloride, a devaluation of the county’s most valuable assets and the degradation of road safety for the traveling public.”
Emergency Medical Services would stand to lose about $103,000 per year, which would mean “a significant reduction in staff hours and a corresponding delay in response time by EMS personnel resulting in an increased risk to human life and health.”
The resolution also takes umbrage with the way Amendment 60 would wrest control away from local governments. Ouray County voters in 1997 and 2002 voted to “de-Bruce” under the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, that is, to allow the county to collect and spend revenues from property taxes without a further vote of the people of Colorado. The resolution says that Amendment 60 “effectively defeats and reverses the decisions of local voters on how their school districts, fire districts, municipalities, library districts, cemetery districts. . . collect and allocate their local resources and effectively eliminates control over the budgeting process for such districts and local governments.”
Amendment 61, a second resolution says, would severely limit the ability of the county to borrow money for big-ticket items like ambulances for EMS, Sheriff’s Department vehicles, equipment and vehicle purchases for the Road and Bridge Department, and for capital expenditures such as roads and public facilities.
The resolution concludes “the Board believes that local decisions relative to public financing are more effective and informed and that it is ill-advised for citizens throughout the State of Colorado to have the opportunity to interfere with the ability of Ouray County to seek and obtain appropriate financing when the need should arise.”
The third resolution deals with Proposition 101, which would eliminate or greatly reduce motor vehicle fees and specific ownership taxes. The latter was instituted in 1937 and is the tax you pay when you register your vehicle with the county.
Specific ownership taxes on motor vehicles are distributed to the school districts, to Ouray County, the Town of Ridgway and the City of Ouray, library districts, fire districts, water districts and cemeteries. If Prop 101 becomes law, the approximately $606,000 collected now would shrink to $9,500 by 2014.
The county Road and Bridge budget would take the biggest hit. Including a reduction in State Highway Users Tax funds, the local road crew could see a drop in revenues of $237,000, resulting in “progressive deterioration of driving surfaces in Ouray County, delays. . .”
The language in the three resolutions is unequivocal: the commissioners think all three initiatives would be disastrous for the county, which is already stretching budgets to the limit.
“Be it resolved,” the final paragraph of each resolution begins, “The provisions of (Amendment 60/Amendment 61/Proposition 101) do not serve the best interest of the citizens of Ouray County and based upon the foregoing, the Board officially opposes (this/these) ill-conceived and irresponsible (amendments/proposition) and the Board encourages the voters of Ouray County to vote NO on (all three) at the general election in 2010.”
The Board of the Rigway School District in July passed its own resolutions in opposition to the “Bad 3.” They estimate a “devastating” 50 percent cut in school funding should Amendment 60 become law. State monies would not be able to make up the difference because, the resolutions claim, Prop 101 would reduce the state budget by over $1 billion.
The Ouray School Board has yet to take up the issue, though Superintendent Nick Schafer expects they will before November.