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Six running for three Foothills board seats

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By The Staff

Residents of the Foothills Park and Recreation District will have a lot to think about before marking the ballots that will be sent to voters in mid-April.

In addition to voting “yes” or “no” on whether to increase the property tax by 3 mills, they are being asked to choose three new members of the board of directors.

After serving for eight years each, the following three board members are relinquishing their seats: Lori A. Hoffner, chairman; Rick R. Woodward, first vice chairman; and Michael R. Whetstone, second vice chairman. They are allowed to serve only two terms.

Six individuals submitted their names to be considered as candidates for the three open board positions. They are Andrew Burt, Christopher Los, Terri Maulik, Jill Nunes, Jenny Rasmussen-Cochran and Keith Sutton.

Candidate profiles can also be viewed on the Foothills website at www.ifoothills.org.

Jenny Rasmussen-Cochran, Friendly Hills

Age: Age is irrelevant

Occupation: I am a middle school teacher at Lake Middle School in Denver Public Schools.

Education: I have a B.A in history from Metropolitan State College and a master’s degree in administration from the University of Phoenix.

Length of residence: I have lived in my neighborhood for approximately 20 years.

How do you stand on the mill levy?

I was originally opposed to the mill levy but now support it. It is something we need to continue the services we received. Additionally, I believe the district is at a turning point. We will have a new director and three new board members. However, one of the reasons I am running for the board is to provide greater oversight over the budget.

What would you cut, if anything, to avoid raising taxes?

I would have to study all departments and services to make an informed decision on what might be cut to avoid raising taxes.

What experience have you had serving on a county, school, municipal or nonprofit board?

I currently sit on the board of directors for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. Additionally, I am a member of the collaborative school committee at Lake Middle School.

What do you hope to achieve by being on the board?

I hope to be able to provide greater oversight of the budget and facilities. Also, to help promote greater use of the resources and facilities.

What is your biggest potential strength as a board member?

My biggest strength is my ability to work with all groups and find the best possible solution to any situation.

What is your favorite form of recreation?

I love to play golf!

Andrew Burt, Mesa View Estates

Age: 44

Occupation: Owner and CEO of TechSoft, custom software and Web page provider in Golden

Length of residence in district: Since 1994

Your level of participation in Foothills programs and facilities: Extremely minimal because we have very few services up here. One park in the neighborhood is very badly maintained — a porta-potty and kind of a shabby pool.

Stand on mill levy?

We think they have been poorly financially managed and the mill levy is a bad idea. We spend about $300,000 a year in property tax for 1,200 to 1,500 homes (in Mesa View Estates), and we get around $100,000 worth of services. With the mill levy we would get no additional services. We currently pay 4 mills, and they are asking 3 mills. All three Foothills districts would be in the top 10 in the recreation districts in the state if the mill levy passes.

They don’t need to take the draconian measure of closing the (Mesa View Estates) pool. It would be a savings of only about $25,000. We think that is a heavy-handed tax. They need to look in-house and become more efficient with their revenue as well as explore alternate revenue sources.

What would you cut to avoid raising taxes?

We are not recommending cutbacks. We think the service level is maintainable with the huge amount of revenue they are bringing in.

What experience have you had serving on a county, school, municipal, corporate or nonprofit board?

On the Mesa View Estates homeowners board and currently serves as president. On the board of Science Fiction Fantasy Writers Association of America Inc., based in Maryland. On board of Pine Ridge Rentals Inc. of Breckenridge.

What do you hope to achieve by being on the board?

Professional maintenance of facilities without reducing services and fixing financial problems without increasing taxes.

What is your biggest potential strength as a board member?

Probably business experience.

What is your favorite form of recreation?

Hiking and mountain biking.

Website?

www.Fixfoothills.org

Christopher Los, Waters Edge

Age: 45

Occupation: Accountant, GE auto warranty services regulatory reporting lead. Serves the chairman of Friends of Foothills, a group formed to build support on behalf of the goals of the district.

Length of residence in district: 15 years

Stand on mill levy?

The mill-levy increase is necessary because people seem to think you can run programs and cover the cost with user fees. There are 2,300 acres of parks that have to be maintained, and the cost of maintaining them has consistently risen. Without the mill levy, there will be significant cutbacks in maintenance. There are maintenenace costs for the buildings. The Peak and The Ridge buildings were brand new eight years ago. There’s a lot of capital equipment. The average life of a vehicle is 12 and half years. The golf carts are past their useful life. Investments eventually reach the point of diminishing returns when it becomes more costly to maintain than to replace them. The cost of chemicals has gone up; utilities have gone up. But most people can attest they are paying more now than eight years ago.

What would you cut to avoid raising taxes?

The whole thing is, park and rec districts were designed so certain programs never generate a profit, like aquatics. You can never charge enough. You still have to be fiscally accountable in all departments so we are not continually going back to the voters for higher taxes as a means of solving the problems. We need to make sure everything is done in the most efficient manner possible. There aren’t any specific areas. You have to look at staff. Look at partnerships. The district has been pretty much in survival mode for years. The surplus has been eroded. If there isn’t any surplus, you have to make a cut in another area. The district is in financial difficulty. They needed it in 2006, and the need is even greater now. If it doesn’t pass, you are going to see programs cut, including the possibility that outdoor swimming pools may be cut.

What experience have you had seving on a county, school, municipal or nonprofit board?

Worked at the state auditor’s office for six years. Specialized in school finance at the Ohio state auditor’s office. Did financial forecasting for schools projecting a deficit. We looked at the revenue and expenditures and forecast out how you could structure the revenue to keep the schools operating. Been in finance my entire life.

What do you hope to achieve by being on the board?

I hope to provide solid leadership and solid knowledge to run the district in the most efficient manner possible. I want the district to be restored to a position where they aren’t struggling every year for finances. That has to happen on both the revenue and cost-saving side.

What is your potential biggest strength as a board member?

Basically my finance and governmental knowledge. I get along pretty well with people and can help reach a consensus with different people with different goals.

What is your favorite form of recreation.

Spending time with my kids. We are heavy users of the park district. I work out at The Peak. The kids like the indoor and outdoor facilities. They have participated in tae kwon do, basketball and the weight rooms. My family takes weight-training classes. The district has been a big part of my family’s life, and I’m committed to making sure other kids have the same opportunity.

Terri Maulik, Mountain View II

Age: 40

Occupation: Administrative assistant, Special District Management Services Inc. Special district administration and elections specialist, Colorado Department of Local Affairs; elections specialist, Arapahoe County clerk’s office, for four years.

Education: L.P.N. degree from Community College of Denver. Attended University of Nevada at Las Vegas and studied English. Planning to enroll at UC-Denver to complete 20 hours required for B.A. in English.

Length of residence?

Four years; three as property owner and one as renter.

Stand on mill levy?

I believe a majority of governments attempt to avoid raising taxes unless there is no other choice. We must remember, our officials also reside in this district. Therefore, this mill-levy increase hits their pocketbooks just like the rest of us. Furthermore, the current board claims to have attempted alternate means of increasing district revenue to exhaustion. There are too many district services — i.e., trails that do not generate revenue. However, these amenities still require maintenance and upkeep. Costs for nearly everything have soared, and yesterday’s revenue resources no longer cover the cost of doing business. Although I, personally, do not want my tax bill to go up, I tend to agree that we need to raise the mill levy in order to continue offering residents excellence in service and district amenities if it’s true that all other efforts to raise revenues have been exhausted. As a voter, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to assure the upkeep of our beautiful park and recreation district.

What would you cut, if anything, to avoid raising taxes?

The only thing I would consider cutting is hours of operation for some of our facilities. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar enough with the cost advantages or disadvantages of taking this step.

What experience have you had serving on a county, school, municipal or nonprofit board?

I have never served on any boards in an official or elected capacity — although I have served for governments and served the public in an administrative capacity at the county, state and local level.

What do you hope to achieve by being on the board?

First and foremost, I hope to become part of the solution by serving the community in which I reside. To be a successful representative of the people will require I take the time to educate, research and communicate. We need to determine what works and what is broken, then create steps and procedures to remedy any problems that exist.

What is your favorite form of recreation?

I enjoy walking the trails on sunny days and cuddling up with a great book on those not so warm.

Jill Nunes, Sunrise Creek

Age: 36

Occupation: Recreation supervisor, Highlands Ranch Metro District; has worked in the parks and recreation industry for the past 16 years.

Education: B.S. in sports management from Towson State University in Maryland

Length of residence: Six years

Stand on mill levy?

I am in support of the mill levy increase because, without it, the district will face many difficult decisions about closing facilities and eliminating recreation programs. Parks and recreation are vital to the health and livability of this community.

What would you cut to avoid raising taxes?

At this point, I would not cut anything to avoid raising taxes. If elected, however, I would use my working experience to see in what areas the Foothills district could be more efficient and innovative with the resources they have, which in turn could save the district money.

What experience have you had serving on a county, school, municipal or nonprofit board?

Awards committee chair, Rockies Baseball Skills Challenge; chair and key committee member on several boards for the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association

What do you hope to achieve by being on the board?

To help provide and protect the Foothills district’s quality facilities and programs while managing resources wisely for the community. I am dedicated to continuing the Gold Medal Standard of Service the Foothills District has been honored for.

What is your biggest potential strength as a board member?

My 16 years of working knowledge of parks, recreation and open space management, along with a strong passion and positive attitude for quality customer service to the residents of the Foothills district.

What is your favorite form of recreation?

Hiking, biking, golfing and working out.

Keith Sutton, Mesa View Estates

Age: 63

Occupation: Self-employed housing-development consultant

Education: Online degree in business administration from Hartford University in Minnesota

Length of residence in district?

Mesa View Estates, since 1992; Jefferson County since 1971

Stand on mill levy?

Neighbors I talk to are dissatisfied with the service and representation we get. The feeling is the people in the subdivision are not getting their money’s worth. And this is a 75 percent increase in taxes. We have a park in the subdivision that is not well maintained at all. We are paying something like $300,000 a year. From what I’ve seen, the return is about $50,000. We don’t want to see a grand facility. We’d like to see things maintained and taken care of.

If the district is financially strapped, I can help them get a grip on their budget and be more financially responsible. Some people are very concerned about financially where they are. They think they have overreached. From what I have read, the answer is yes. They have a generous budget. I think they have overdeveloped and overacquired beyond their means.

Would you cut services to avoid raising taxes?

No. I think that takes careful understanding. That needs to be verified. We need to see if all the parks are as poorly maintained as ours is. We are concerned about here but not to the exclusion of the district. I think ours is not typical. I’d like to think that. If there are problems elsewhere, I think those people have to be represented as well. If I get elected, I will investigate that. If you buy something, you need to maintain it so it reflects well on the district.

It’s simple Boy Scout economics: You learn to live within your means. There is no reserve. That’s something everybody in the district should be concerned about.

What experience have you had seving on a county, school, municipal or nonprofit board?

Served on Mesa View Estates Homeowners Association as board member for six years, and as a Libertas Community Housing Inc. board member.

What is your biggest potential strength as a board member?

I think the willingness to understand the issues, take the time to understand the issues and be willing to compromise.

What is your favorite form of recreation?

Boating and water skiing.

Voting information

The registration deadline for the mail-in election is April 7. Ballots will be mailed to all registered voters between April 10 and 20. The deadline to return ballots is Election Day, May 6. Voters can mail back the ballot in the preprinted envelope but must provide first-class postage. Voters can also drop off ballots in secure boxes at the Peak Community and Wellness Center, 6612 S. Ward St.