Boulder County ballot issues

Vote 2009


County Ballot Issue 1A

Vote Yes.

This ballot question would extend the county’s existing 0.25 percent open space sales and use tax so that the county can issue bonds for open-space purchases, improvements, maintenance and management. The tax, which is currently set to expire in 2019, would be extended through 2034 if the measure passes, and county debt would be increased by up to $50 million with a maximum repayment cost of $140 million. Under the measure, the county would be authorized to use general funds and other sources of revenue to make debt payments if revenue from the open space tax is not sufficient. Proponents say the measure does not increase taxes and allows the county to continue preserving land at a time when revenue for acquiring open space has diminished. They argue that buying open space helps keep property values stable, and that significant parcels will become available in the near future that should be protected from development. Proponents say that current funding levels only pay for land already acquired, and that 1A is needed to stop sprawl and preserve additional wildlife habitat, urban buffers between communities, and working farms and ranches. Opponents counter that it doesn’t make sense to extend a tax that doesn’t expire for another 10 years, especially in a time when county sales tax revenue is slumping. They say that the openspace program is bloated, with 95,000 acres already acquired, and that open space has negative economic consequences, like prohibitively expensive Boulder real estate. They say extending the tax will further burden a future generation of taxpayers, and that when it comes to open space, enough is enough.

While Boulder Weekly acknowledges that the purchase of open space has had some unintended negative consequences, especially on the availability of affordable housing in Boulder, those are outweighed by the high priority that county residents have placed on preserving natural lands in an era of sprawl and communities that run together without a clear boundary. Vote YES on Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A.

County Ballot Issue 1B

Vote Yes.

Issue 1B would authorize bonds of up to $85 million (with a maximum repayment cost of $180 million) to continue funding for the ClimateSmart Loan Program approved by county voters in last year’s election. The voluntary ClimateSmart program issues loans to county residents and businesses for projects that improve the energy efficiency of their homes and office buildings, cutting both their carbon footprints and their utility bills. The measure would also allow Boulder County to join with other Colorado counties in offering the loans, which could result in efficiencies of scale, lower administration fees and reduced interest. Proponents say that the ClimateSmart program is not only good for the environment, the economy and property owners’ pocketbooks, but is a secure investment because the county does not have to repay the debt the participating property owners do (and the assessment stays with the property, not the owner). Those in favor of 1B point out that there is little or no upfront cost for those who choose to participate, and interest rates are low because debt payments are collected along with property tax, which is paid about 99 percent of the time. Opponents argue that county government shouldn’t be in the banking business, giving out loans, and that it’s a bad idea to become financially tied to other counties’ economic fates. They also question the idea of increasing county debt by such a large amount and burdening future generations with repaying it, especially at a time when sales-tax revenue is down and the financial future is uncertain. And they ask whether taking on so much debt could negatively affect the county’s credit rating.

Boulder Weekly believes this is a nobrainer. A program that costs the county virtually nothing, only charges additional taxes to those who elect to participate, decreases greenhouse gases and our carbon footprint, and saves people money on their utilities bill? The arguments against this ring a bit hollow. Vote YES on Boulder County Ballot Issue 1B.

Issue 1C

Vote Yes.

If passed, this ballot initiative would allow the county to issue up to $6.1 million in Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds authorized by the federal stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The bonds, which would carry a maximum repayment cost of $8 million, would be used to finance energy-conservation upgrades for county facilities, and no taxes would be increased. Proponents say the federal government backs the limited-time-only loans, meaning that the costs to the county amount to only 1 percent to 2 percent interest a year, an amount that will be easily covered by the cost savings expected to be generated by the projects.

In the case of the county jail, they say, utilities bills could be cut in half after energy-efficient improvements are made.

Other facilities expected to see energy upgrades if the measure passes include the sheriff’s administration building, the justice center, county fairgrounds and the open space and transportation complex.

In addition to cost savings, proponents point to the contribution that 1C would make to the county’s goals of carbonneutrality and sustainability. Opponents say the measure doesn’t include any language about the anticipated cost or energy savings, meaning that the county won’t be held accountable if the savings aren’t as high as expected. They also argue that government subsidies shouldn’t be needed if energy improvements like solar panels pay for themselves so quickly in lower utilities costs. Finally, opponents say that taking advantage of stimulus funding is financially burdensome to future generations, which will have to repay that debt.

Again, Boulder Weeklythinks this is a no-brainer, when you are looking at an opportunity to take out what amounts to a loan with 1 percent interest to pay for improvements that will actually save the county money immediately and will free up funding for other public uses. Vote YES on Boulder County Ballot Issue 1C