Foothills looks ahead in wake of rejected tax increase

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By AJ Vicens

Foothills Park & Recreation District Executive Director Ronald Hopp sees some positives in the district’s failed bid for a tax hike May 6, the second rejection by district voters in less than two years.

"Here's a new face of the board, a new majority if you will," Hopp said, referring to himself and the three new board members. "And with a failed election, there's a new edict to evaluate what we do and try to figure out if the direction we're going is the right direction. It's a new era and a new opportunity, and the timing is right to really be able to put it all together and try to make sure we can respond to the needs of the community."

By a vote of 54.3 percent to 45.7 percent, district residents rejected a proposed 3-mill increase to a levy of 10.65 mills, which the district said was needed for capital repairs, equipment replacement, operational costs and maintenance.

The actual vote count was 8,163 opposed and 6,867 in favor, according to Foothills' website.

The 39 percent increase would have cost the owner of a $300,000 home an additional $72 per year. It would have cost an additional $261 per year for the owner of commercial property valued at $300,000.

The district failed in a bid for a 1.5-mill increase in November 2006.

Hopp — whose second day on the job was May 6 — said another tax election in the future is one of several possibilities. Whatever happens going forward, Hopp wants to acknowledge the community’s concerns.

"Obviously, with two failed elections, the residents of the district have some strong feelings about maybe the direction of the district and would like to see some different things," Hopp said.

Voters also elected three new directors to the Foothills board. They are Terri Maulik, Jill Nunes and Keith Sutton. The new board members will hit the ground running, as they begin work this week.

“We're going to have to change the way we do things, for one thing," said district spokesman Yanic LeRolland, referring to a failure to pass the mill levy. "We will not be able to do what we described to the voters in the ballot."

The election cost the district $130,000, LeRolland said. Hopp called it a "necessary evil" since the district wanted to make sure it followed all state laws in conducting special elections.

The district has said it would be forced to make service reductions without the tax increase. The district receives about 70 percent of its current revenues from fees, admissions and rentals, and about 30 percent from taxes. Tax revenues help support parks and trails, while programs such as golf, arts and fitness classes and a range of services are either self-supporting or help support other program areas.

"We will continue to analyze the impact the failed election will have on service," Hopp said. "Obviously there will be some impact on the services we can provide."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.