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Slitting our own throats with Prop 101

by Larry Patrick

HUERFANO- A couple of weeks ago, the Huerfano World Journal reported the impact Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 & 61would have on Pueblo County if approved by voters in November.

    The Bell Policy Center of Denver has now put together figures specifically for Huerfano County.  The nonprofit Bell Policy Center is committed to identifying and promoting policies that help individuals and families.  Their reports are based on objective, nonpartisan research.  According to their research, Proposition 101 would do the following in Huerfano County.

    Annual funding for our two school districts would shrink from $241,328 in 2009 to $5,090 next year.  The average per pupil share of state tax dollars for Walsenburg and La Veta was over $400 in 2009.  That would drop to less than $9 per student under Proposition 101.  Our schools would be forced to eliminate programs and jobs if they couldn’t find alternate sources of revenue. 

    Supporters of the measure believe the state would come up with more money to fund schools, but this is not likely because the state is already in dire straits financially.  Note that, because K-12 spending currently makes up more than 40% of all State General Fund spending, a significant increase of dollars from the General Fund to cover the shortfall imposed by Prop 101, would necessitate cuts to all other areas: Health Care, Higher Education, Transportation and Corrections.

    Huerfano County government received $183,432 from state funding in 2009.  If Prop. 101 passes, the county would get just $3,869 to provide services to citizens.  (see related article, “Push to reduce revenue” on page 1)

    Huerfano County’s two libraries, Spanish Peaks Library and La Veta Public Library, have shared $32,674 in annual funding.  Under Proposition 101, the two libraries would split $689 per year.  Services, the purchase of new books and materials, hours of operation and jobs would be affected.

    Towns, water districts, the hospital and fire districts would see similar drops in revenue.  Huerfano County has three fire protection districts (FPD): La Veta FPD, Upper Huerfano FPD and Huerfano County FPD.  Currently the departments receive $25,795 each year, if Prop. 101 passes, they will share $544 for the year.  Fighting fires is costly, where will the shortfall be made up?

    Our water districts currently receive $29,808, under Prop. 101, they would get $629. 

    Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center would see its current annual funding of $26,368 reduced to $556 per year. 

    In all cases, Huerfano County residents would have to pick up a bigger share of costs and would lose numerous services they have come to expect to protect their health and safety.

    The average vehicle owner in Huerfano County pays $55.55 in highway user taxes.  That would go down to $2.90.  Huerfano County Administrator, John Galusha, told those in attendance at the monthly County Coalition Meeting last week, half jokingly, that if Proposition 101 passes, the County would have to sell its roads and bridges because they would have no money to maintain them.  Currently Huerfano County’s Road and Bridge department receives $309,939.  Under Proposition 101, the department would receive no funding, $0, zip, nada.

    Overall, Huerfano County would lose 1.3 million dollars in funding if Proposition 101 should pass.  Programs, jobs and services in schools, local government, libraries, hospitals, fire and water districts would have to be cut severely because of a lack of funding if voters approve Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101.

    For those who feel tax dollars are wasted and local schools and government can make do with a lot less, these proposals are right up their alley.  For those who feel taxes are necessary for operating government and providing services taxpayers now take for granted, Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 & 61 are downright scary.

    In the meantime, community leaders hope that voters will talk to their city, county, school, library, fire & water district officials and discuss the direct impact on taxpayers of a drastic reduction in services.  In November, voters will have their say and local entities will nervously await the outcome.

    The Bell research results can be found at  Scroll down and click on “Huerfano County”, then click on the pdf attachment labelled Huerfano1page.pdf.