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Every penny

Dear Editor:

I’ve attended several of the public meetings regarding the proposed recreation center and have heard opinions from the group who so vocally opposes the one-percent tax hike to fund the project. At the most recent public meeting on March 20th, sitting Archuleta County Commissioner Clifford Lucero spoke strongly against the rec center, with his reasons being that the Town of Pagosa should first spend money on fixing roads and building sidewalks and trails, and also that the poor kids in the community won’t be able to afford the new rec center fees. He also stated concern that the Town and the County weren’t working jointly on the project and that we should wait for a better time to build a rec center together.

While it would be fabulous to see the Town and County come together to build a community recreation center, there have been groups approaching leadership in both the Town and County for over a decade to do just that, but with no results to show for it. The response has always been that a recreation center would cost too much to build and is not sustainable. Several audience members at the meeting addressed Commissioner Lucero’s remarks by commenting that the county could have fixed roads and sidewalks by now but hasn’t.

The one-percent sales tax increase to fund a recreation center is what makes this ballot proposal different from past efforts. The sales tax increase will generate revenue to allow the Town of Pagosa to build the recreation center and have the funds to maintain it, even if our population never grows or sales tax revenue doesn’t increase from the past 25-year trend.

After years of hoping for a recreation center but hearing “we can’t afford it,” I am confident that the Town of Pagosa Springs would not bring the issue to the table for a vote unless it is something they thought was not only a valuable community amenity, but also a viable financial option. And after a lengthy grilling by the few opponents of the rec center at the March 20th meeting, there were no holes found in the soundness of the financial plan.

I stood and spoke at the meeting to rebut Commissioner Lucero’s comment about the poor kids who won’t be able to afford the recreation center. As a low-income single mother and 20-year resident with deep community ties, I am conscious of how and where I spend my money. A local recreation center would be far less costly to me than the drive to Durango’s rec center where the trip cost for the gas alone is $20. I’m willing to pay the extra penny-on-a-dollar to see a community recreation center built right here in our wonderful town, and I hope you are too.

Don’t be confused by opponents who say it’s too costly. The recreation center is affordable, it’s for all of us, and it’s long overdue. Please vote yes on the recreation center proposal. It’s worth every penny.

Natalie Carpenter

This story was posted on March 27, 2014.
  • Billy Skipper

    Nicely done.

    • ajpagosa

      Modererators: nicely done. Thank you.

  • ajpagosa

    Of course we can afford a rec center. The problem is we can’t afford anything else for a very long time after. The county understands this, perhaps much better than the author of the above letter does. Even the Town understood it back in 06/07 when an almost identical and slightly more costly proposal failed. Then it was all about the unlimited growth, hundreds of new luxury housing units along 84 would pay for it via impact fees [ummm which never happened]. Now it’s 5% growth forever.

    You rec guys don’t seem to understand the following. The county has to look after infrastructure and roads for the other 10,000+ residents of Archuleta county that the Town isn’t responsible for. The present road system was laid out for an anticipated 40,000 residents. [Yet another growth projection that didn’t pan out.] So there is a vast network out there, falling apart. The Town has obvious needs too. Unfunded unfinished programs and many existing facilities falling apart.

    So far the 50/50 split of 4% total county wide sales tax has kept things going. Just barely. But an additional 1% imposed by the Town for something unnecessary and extremely expensive, that will run at a large loss forever, is bad for a number of reasons.

    It cuts in line ahead of badly needed funding for those existing Town projects and infrastructure. But it also usurps the county’s role in any joint sales tax initiative, which may be needed in the future. Basically neither the Town or County will be able to afford much else besides a rec center for a very long time. The next sales tax increase would put us above rates of surrounding counties, if it could pass that is, right after one as large as this. And the county could rightly say, well it’s all ours.

    Very smart, dedicated people oppose this plan, including the entire board of county commissioners, three out of four candidates for mayor, the current mayor, and a number of sitting council members.
    Attempts to portray opposition as not understanding local finance is just not accurate.

    Finally I have personally been over every square millimeter of the projections presented by rec center proponents. If you really believe we will see 5% growth for 25 years, or that costs and fees will come in as expected, or that our town or county can afford this plan without serious impact to necessary services and growth, you need to go back to school. For a long time.

    Please vote NO on 25 years and $45M of debt

    • Billy Skipper

      Perhaps the other communities across the state and country which funded rec centers in this very fashion all got really, really lucky with respect to their projections? Right. Why don’t you hop into one of your BMW’s and check it out? Now is the time.

  • ajpagosa

    People who want to look into the economic health of the county, without any spin or distortions, may want to read the county’s 2014 Budget. It is available for download. Particularly pay attention to the information on revenue, not just sales tax, and ask yourself if this is a healthy situation that can stand up to 45M being pulled out of it and sent to bankers.

    Of particular interest to me is data on sales tax revenue Page 31 (internal numbering page 26), and the comments under the graph, note esp last line:

    “The County had experienced double digit growth in Sales Tax revenues since 2004, but began to level off in 2006 and was relatively flat in 2007. In 2008 the County experienced a minor decrease of 1% and a significant decrease in 2009 of 8%. During 2010 the State of Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) conducted an audit that was for the period of 2003 through 2008. After review of the information, it was determined by the DOR that an adjustment in sales tax proceeds was due to Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs. The adjustment due to the County was $1,001,738. This increase in revenue during 2010 distorts the percentage of changes for years 2003 through 2008, and 2010.

    We believe the data suggests the sales tax decline has hit bottom and should remain flat or show sluggish growth in spite of the potential Walmart opening.”