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RBC | The Colorado River District’s board of directors adopted a resolution Tuesday, July 21, 2020, to ask voters in November to support a property tax increase to protect water security in Western Colorado while funding projects to improve water use and healthy streams.
River District General Manager Andy Mueller said the board’s resolution asks for taxpayer support for the River District work directed at:
• Fighting to keep water on the West Slope;
• Protecting adequate water supplies for West Slope farmers and ranchers;
• Protecting sustainable drinking water supplies for West Slope communities; and
• Protecting fish, wildlife, and recreation by maintaining river levels and water quality.
The resolution also approves a Fiscal Implementation Plan that spells out how the added money would be invested across the district. Included in the plan is an explicit direction that the “district is committed to coordinating and consulting local elected officials in any and all relevant counties prior to committing funds to any specific project or activity pursued by the district.”
If voters agree, the median residential property tax increase in the district’s 15-county region would be $7.03 per year. The question will go on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot in Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Routt, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Mesa, Delta, Ouray, Gunnison, and parts of Montrose, Saguache and Hinsdale counties.
The resolution references the mission of the Colorado River Water Conservation District to lead in the protection, conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River Basin for the welfare of the District and to safeguard for Colorado all waters of the Colorado River to which the state is entitled.
According to the resolution, in these increasingly contentious times of long-term drought and external pressure on water, Western Colorado needs “a strong and effective advocate.” Meanwhile the district budget is “projected to continue to be negatively impacted due to declining revenues from the energy sector, the impacts of the Gallagher Amendment and the revenue limitations of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (known commonly as TABOR).”
According to the Fiscal Implementation Plan, the new mill levy would raise about $4.9 million more annually for the River District throughout its 15-county boundaries. About $4.2 million would be dedicated to partnership projects across the District in one or more of the following five categories laid out in the plan: productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, conservation and efficiency. The rest would address budgetary reductions caused by the Gallagher and TABOR amendments. No new staff positions would be created with the new funds.