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Property tax increase slated for November ballot

As Tuesday’s primaries wrap up, attention turns to November’s General Election and to a number of issues at the state and local level that could change how government finances operate and what residents support.

At their Aug. 3 regular meeting, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners agreed to place a 1.5-mill property tax increase on the November ballot that would be dedicated to the Archuleta County Education Center.

Because the Ed Center is not a special district, the county would dedicate the funds to the center, should the issue be approved by the voters.

In proposing the issue to the BoCC, Ed Center Executive Director Don Goodwin said, “It’s really about sustainability, predictability and expanded services to the constituents of the county.”

Goodwin said the Ed Center board’s strategy is to provide expanded technology at the center that will allow users to seek post-secondary educational content in a more convenient way, since the traditional method of having a college bring a course to Archuleta County is no longer a viable option (15 people have to be interested in the same course for it to be taught in Pagosa Springs).

Goodwin also characterized the effort as an economic development initiative that would help to accommodate individual learners and help local businesses connect to a global economy.

Steve Vassallo, the new director of the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation, voiced his support for the project, saying, “There’s nothing more important than education.”

Vassallo continued that the issue would provide both short- and long-term benefits, and that it was the right thing to happen in this community and the right time to do it.

Commissioner Bob Moomaw voiced his hesitancy to add additional taxes, but that education is the key to economic development and the proposal was a cornerstone of an economic development package.

“This is a huge investment in education,” said Commissioner Clifford Lucero, adding, “This is not just an investment in education, but this is an investment in our future and our kids and also the community. This is huge.”

Ranson also voiced that he believed it was a “tough year” for a tax increase, but that the future needed to be considered, as did the diversification of the local economy.

In the current tax economy, Goodwin said the increase would raise $500,000 yearly, which would be applied to software, staff support and a scholarship fund.

The issue will be placed on the ballot contingent upon BoCC approval of the ballot language, an opinion from legal counsel and the assurance that the increase would not place the county in violation of TABOR laws.

Likely, a resolution adopting the ballot language will be considered by the BoCC on Aug. 24 or 31, before the September ballot deadline.

randi@pagosasun.com