Basalt 3A: Voters say yes to extension of property tax for downtown projects and affordable housing

In Tuesday’s election, Basalt voters were asked to extend a property tax to downtown improvements as well as fund affordable housing and “green” projects. (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

A ballot question to Basalt to issue new bonds and maintain property tax levels for a variety of projects won Tuesday night in Eagle and Pitkin counties.

Question 3A won the support of 848 voters while 325 opposed it, according to results updated Wednesday morning. That’s a 72% to 28% margin.

Basalt Mayor Bill Kane called this a good result for the community.

“We just have a positive momentum going on in the community,” he said. “I think people are feeling it.”

Kane thanked city government staff for doing a “great job in laying the groundwork for this vote.” They provided information through open houses, letters and other means to educate voters on the issue.

Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney added, “I think this shows the community’s confidence in the board and the process.”

One key was to avoid a tax increase. Basalt has two bonds that will be repaid in 2023. Since the bonds are repaid, property taxes of approximately $ 950,000 per year would have expired. However, the city has asked voters to keep those property taxes in place to pay off new bonds that would be issued for new projects, but there will be no tax increase.

The city requested permission to issue $ 18 million in new bonds and extend the existing property tax to pay them down to a maximum of $ 23 million, including interest. Taxes bring in about $ 950,000 a year.

Basalt officials campaigned on the fact that no “new” taxes would result from a “yes” vote on 3A. If this is true, it is also nuanced. Taxes would have been lower in a few years with a “no” vote.

Kane said the fact that no new tax was required likely tipped the vote.

“I think that says a lot about the confidence of the people in the city,” he said.

The city will pursue projects in three categories with the $ 18 million bond: improvement of the streetscape, sidewalks and related infrastructure on Midland Avenue; affordable housing projects; and environmentally friendly projects such as electric vehicle charging stations and solar development.

Work on Midland Avenue, Basalt’s main street, is estimated at $ 11.5 million. The city would pursue grants as well as bond financing.

About $ 6 million of the bonds are intended for affordable housing projects. The city would partner with other governments and nonprofits to leverage the funds.

An additional $ 2 million will be set aside for “green initiatives”.

Kane said work on Midland Avenue could begin almost immediately. The first step will be to assess the condition of underground utilities which are approximately 85 years old.

For affordable housing assistance, the city will seek to acquire land, then work with the government and nonprofit partners to build housing.

“We are going to raise $ 6 million, but we want that $ 6 million to be exploited,” he said.

Mahoney said work would begin almost immediately. The municipal government will launch the bond sale process on November 9. In addition, the assessment of the Midland Avenue infrastructure will begin.

The city will also hire a real estate agent to search for land to buy for affordable housing. Additionally, the city has already started the process to find a “viable location” for a solar project, Mahoney said.

Kane was settling down for dinner when the first results favorable to the city were released shortly after 7 p.m.

“I think I’ll have an extra glass of wine tonight,” he said.

Penny D. Jackson