Basalt calls for extension of property tax in next election

Diners indulge themselves along Midland Avenue in Basalt on Monday, October 18. If Basalt voters approve a tax issue in the Nov. 2 election, part of the $ 18 million in funding will go towards improving the landscape on Main Street in Basalt.

Basalt government officials hope to convince voters to approve a property tax extension in the Nov. 2 election, which would raise funds for some of the major issues facing the city.

The fate of ballot question 3A could depend on the promoters’ ability to educate voters on one major nuance. The town hall is not proposing a new property tax. Instead, he’s asking voters to expand some of the existing property taxes that pay off general bond bonds issued in 2001 and 2013. These bonds will be repaid in 2023.

If the bonds were paid off and no extensions were approved, overall property tax collections would decline by approximately $ 950,000 per year. The city is seeking permission to issue around $ 18 million in new bonds and extend the existing property tax to pay them down to a maximum of $ 23 million, including interest.

The ballot question begins with the sentence “Without imposing a new tax”. Municipal officials insist on this point.

“I think this is going to be critical,” Mayor Bill Kane said.

The other big selling point is the proposed use of funds. They would pay for improvements to the streetscape, sidewalks and related infrastructure on Midland Avenue, the city’s main street; fund affordable housing projects; and finance “green” projects.

“The use of bonds is the most fiscally responsible way for the City to fund these master plan projects,” said the written comments submitted in support of the ballot question. “With inflation and rising construction costs, coupled with historically low bond interest rates, now is the time for Basalt to start these projects before the price goes out of reach. “

No written comments against the ballot issue have been submitted and no organized opposition has emerged so far.

The ballots were mailed on October 8 and are in the hands of residents of Basalt. Ballots must be returned by 7:00 p.m. on polling day, which is November 2.

The ballot question does not identify how the $ 18 million would be distributed among affordable housing, green projects and Midland Avenue so that the city has flexibility, said city finance director Christy Chicoine. However, city staff worked with consultants to provide city council with cost projections. The most expensive item, estimated at $ 11.5 million, is the Midland Avenue work.

“There are grant possibilities for this project,” Chicoine said.

About $ 6 million in municipal funding is targeted for affordable housing projects. The ballot question indicates that the funds would be used to provide affordable housing within the limits of the city’s urban growth. The funds could be used to buy a property or participate in a partnership with other entities to build housing. Another option would be to acquire deed restrictions that would keep housing in affordable stock.

“(The council) wanted to make sure they had a big impact with affordable housing,” Chicoine said.

While $ 6 million would not build much affordable housing given the land and construction costs in the Roaring Fork Valley, Basalt will look to leverage the funds by partnering with partners such as Eagle County, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority and nonprofits such as Habitat For Humanity, Kane said. By pooling funds, they can accomplish more, as the Basalt Vista project illustrates on land provided by the Roaring Fork School District.

Another $ 2 million in funding from the city would be earmarked for “green” projects such as solar development and electric vehicle charging stations, in the parlance of the ballot.

The projects were selected after an extensive process that included public comment and recommendations from an appointed committee.

“These ideas didn’t come out of nowhere,” Kane said.

The process began with an update of the city’s master plan in 2020. The plan identified many projects that should be continued. The wishlist was reduced with additional input from the public and a capital needs committee.

Council made a critical decision in August when it decided to continue improvements to the streetscape of Midland Avenue rather than a new city hall. While the Capital Needs Committee recommended continuing City Hall, citizens favored improvements to Midland Avenue in a meeting where they were able to vote informally for their priorities. The council initially decided to accept the town hall’s proposal, but changed direction after further consideration.

If the vote passes, Basalt would issue the bonds, get a lump sum and proceed with the projects as quickly as possible, Kane said.

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Penny D. Jackson