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City council approves two ballot measures

by Bill Knowles
WALSENBURG- Two ballot questions were brought to the Walsenburg City Council during a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 1. Both questions had to be approved and given to the county clerk before the end of the business day on Friday, Sept. 2.
The first question considered the issue of raising the debt limit on property owners in the Northlands. The increase would go toward repaying the loan from a USDA loan-grant. The USDA funds will pay for the construction of a sewer line that will stretch from the Northlands to the city’s new wastewater treatment facility.
The measure has the unanimous support of eight Northland business owners and operators, and if passed by qualified voters in the Northlands, would raise $127,000 a year for 40 years to pay down the USDA loan. The ballot question was passed on a 7-1 vote by the city council. Council member Gary Sporcich was the one dissenting vote and mayor pro tem Craig Lessar was absent.
The second question the city council considered was an adjustment in the mill levy for the city. The city has been undergoing its annual audit and it was discovered by City Treasurer Jacque Sikes, Assistant City Administrator Beth Neece, and City Finance Director Dave Johnston that the mill levy needs adjustment to reflect the legal mill levy.
According to a letter to the city council signed by Sikes, Neece, and Johnston, the mill levy needs to be adjusted upward from 11.756 mills to 18.547 mills. That adjustment will restore the mill levy approved by voters in 1995 which could go no higher than 18.547 and no lower than 11.756. In 2002 the mill levy was at the lowest of 11.756 mills and is currently at 15.84.
If the measure is approved, the city will refund to the citizens of Walsenburg about $330,000 which represents the overage. The recommendation made by the city treasurer, the assistant city administrator, and the city’s finance director would be to give either a credit of $110,000 or a rebate of approximately four mills each year for three years.
Figures shown in the letter note the net effect to the taxpayers will be an “actual decrease from the 2011 mill of 15.84 to 14.54 mills for three years.” Such a rebate will decrease property tax revenue to the city in 2012 by $35,679.63. “However, it will be fixing a past error and benefit the citizens at the same time by lowering the current mill levy,” the letter stated.
If the ballot issue fails, there will be a decrease in the mill levy to the 11.756 mills which will result in a $112,000 loss in revenue to the general fund. With the city currently facing cuts in that fund, any further decrease would have a negative affect on the operation of general fund services such as police, street maintenance, parks, and administration.
The city council passed the ballot issue on a 8-0 vote. It will later have to pass a resolution, if the question is passed in the November elections, to credit the four mills back to Walsenburg residents.