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To the vote, then move on

The November general election date is less than four months away and when we turn our attention to local issues, one word comes to mind.

Taxes.

For many, the word is like a detonator on a high explosive device, a trigger on a thermonuclear bomb. They hear the word and they explode, launching into a rant that rests on a foundation of absolute opposition to any increase in taxes. Many react in fiery fashion to the notion that taxes should remain as they are, and argue for reductions.

Putting partisan rhetoric aside, we see serious local issues on the horizon, involving potential increases in taxes — proposals that must be considered carefully before they are rejected, or accepted.

The first, and the first announced, is the move that will apparently be made by the Board of Education of Archuleta School District 50 Jt. to bring a Coordinated Ballot Issue to the voters in November, for money to construct buildings on land adjacent to the current high school site.

The board cites impending major costs for maintenance of aging district buildings, and backs up the claim that new construction is necessary with information from a building survey completed by the CDE.

We acknowledge the difficulties with several district buildings; there is no question there are big problems that will be prohibitively costly in the near future, but we wonder about the timing of the issue.

The details of the proposal will be covered in The SUN and any other editorial comment will wait for more disclosure and discussion.

The measure we want on the ballot is one in which the county commissioners could take a proposal for a mill levy increase to the voters. For road work.

Such a proposal could ask voters to increase the mill levy; the request could be accompanied by a detailed plan of work and an estimate of the cost. With property tax revenues sure to go down in 2012, the sunset of 1A, and the clamor for road maintenance continuing to grow, such a proposal is interesting.

It is a matter of asking the voters if they are serious about the situation. A “Put up, or shut up” situation.

Make no mistake, there are major problems with some county roads – problems that will require more money. Take a drive on CR 500 or 700, to use just two examples. A major portion of the county road budget could be spent repairing these two arterials.

While we approve of the mill levy question being brought to the voters, we do not approve its passage. We need no more than one reason to cast our lot against a countywide mill levy increase: how fair is it to ask those residents of the county who now tax themselves as members of a metro road district, or residents of the town of Pagosa Springs — all people who already pay county taxes that do not fund work on their road systems — to pay an additional tax?

We believe the greatest value of a mill levy increase request lies in the fact that, in denying it, people in areas in the county with poor secondary roads can come to grips with the only fair way to deal with their dilemma: form road districts, tax themselves and take care of the problem. The county administrates the additional tax, private contractors do the work, the residents in the district control the system. People in areas defined by common interest take responsibility for specific problems while taxpayers in the county at large pay for work on those roads that are used by the majority of motorists.

Put the matter to a vote, then move on to real solutions.

Karl Isberg

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