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Push to reduce revenue causes concern for county

A new nursing home possible for Huerfano

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG – With a little over six months before general elections in November, leaders throughout Huerfano County are beginning to voice concern about amendments 60 and 61, and proposition 101 and what these ballot issues would do to the budget of Huerfano County if passed.

    Amendment 60 would set stricter limits on property taxes than currently imposed by TABOR. It would cripple local governments in their ability to raise revenue by overriding all local de-Brucing elections.  It would apply a 10-year limit on all property tax increases and put in place a mechanism where taxpayers could petition for tax cuts on the ballot of every election.  It would also require local school districts to cut their mill levy rates in half by 2020, with local revenue to be replaced by the state according to a study by the Bell  Policy Center located in Denver.

    Amendment 61 would make sweeping changes in how the state and local governments such as Huerfano County and the City of Walsenburg can use and issue debt.  

     It would ban the use of any kind of debt by the state of Colorado.  The passage of this amendment could make Colorado the only state in the nation without the authority to issue debt. 

     It would limit the amount of debt issued by local governments and require all local debt be approved by the voters in a November election.  It would also require local governments to cut their tax rates equal to the average annual debt payments as debts are repaid.

    Proposition 101, based on preliminary estimates on current values in a study from the Bell Policy Center, when fully implemented would reduce state income tax revenues by $1.2 billion per year.  It would also reduce state and local revenues from a range of sales taxes and vehicle fees by well over $1.1 billion per year and reduce state revenues from telecommunications charges and fees by $4.5 million per year.

    “An example of what would happen if prop 101 were voted in is that the road and bridge department for Huerfano County would lose about $188,000.  We would have to lay off the road and bridge staff and put the equipment up for sale.  And highways 10 and 69 would go to gravel,” county commissioner Scott King said.

    “The highway users tax fund would drop to zero and funding for school students would plunge from $4,000 per year per student to $5.”

    A new nursing home that might be located  on the grounds of the old Lathrop Boys Camp on highway US 160 was one of the issues that city, county and town leaders from around Huerfano County discussed at City Hall on Monday evening, April 12.

    However it is unclear whether the Care Center in Walsenburg or the hospital will foot the costs of land and new construction for the much talked about nursing home.

    A land swap between the city and the Care Center is part of the idea, but costs associated with the demolition of the current care center building located on west 7th Street and the four acres of land located adjacent to the Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center might cause the Care Center to back out of any kind of deal and could then bring the hospital into play for the possible nursing home according to Alan Hein the city’s administrator.

    “The Care Center has first option on the property.  If they decline to move ahead with the purchase then the hospital has indicated it will.”

    The county assessor’s office has put at least a $100,000 per acre assessment on the tract of land. Other costs associated with the possible relocation of the Care Center are associated with the demolition of the current building.  Asbestos, a highly carcinogenic material, was used in the building and would require special handling for transportation and disposal.

    A land swap between the city and the Care Center might also be part of the deal.  City officials are looking at the possibility of an agreement within the next 30 to 60 days.

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