Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jesse Murphy

Back to the drawing board for subdivision roads


November 25, 2016

The November 8 election has sent Boulder County commissioners back to the drawing board after ballot issue 1A failed with 94,960 against and 80,589 in favor of the Road and Bridge mill levy increase.

The tax was proposed by commissioners to solve the ongoing issue concerning the county’s responsibility to pave and maintain roads in the un-incorporated subdivisions of the county.

Vince Hirsch, co-chair of the steering committee for BoCoFIRM, said that they are pleased with the results.

“My take on 1A is that it was the wrong thing to do,” Hirsch said. “It was giving in to what the commissioners have wanted all along — they want to tax somebody. In an effort to get any tax money for subdivision roads, they have to tax everyone in Boulder County.

“As we know, the people’s court has spoken. They don’t want to pay for these roads that our county has allowed to deteriorate. They see the error in that thinking.”

BoCoFIRM currently has litigation against the county concerning maintenance (or lack thereof). The case is in the State Supreme Court, and while a ruling is not expected until next year, Hirsch says they anticipate the case will go back to district court.

“We wanted 1A to fail because our goal all along was to get our roads fixed without new taxes,” Hirsch said. “We know for a fact that Boulder County has sufficient funding in reserves and on-hand to do this work over the years without new taxes. We have plenty of research on this, and that is our standing.”

BoCoFIRM is also somewhat back to the drawing board to try and propose a solution without adding new taxes.

Hirsch said that the group has several initiatives that they are going to pursue, including coming up with language for a resolution or a special election that would find internal funding for the roads.

Petitions to re-allocate funding to the Road and Bridge department is another option, he said.

Aside from fixing roads without implementing new taxes, safety has become an issue.

Hirsch said that some county officials have stated that certain roads are not safe, and that they are often unable to handle snow removal in some areas due to not being able to get equipment down the roads.

Their case claims that the county is failing in their statutory duty, in turn causing safety issues, and therefore the court should waive government immunity.

The ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court will either put the current case to rest or send it back to the District Court for another round of hearings.

“We feel like we’re on the right side of the law,” Hirsch said. “So we have every intention of being successful.”

Two incumbent county commissioners, Elise Jones and Deb Gardner, were both re-elected earlier this month. Even though they have been part of the commission that BoCoFIRM has been battling, Hirsch said the group doesn’t mind them being back in office for another term.

“In some respects, it’s ok that those two (Gardner and Jones) were re-elected,” Hirsch said. “We endorsed the other two candidates, but it’s those three commissioners that have been there all along.

“They’re fully aware of the past, so we know them and how to work with them. This whole thing will go before the court of public opinion again, and they will all be there.”

In a joint statement concerning the election and this particular issue that ran in last week’s Courier, Gardner and Jones had this to say:

“One of the outstanding challenges we face is how to secure funding to repave the subdivision roads in unincorporated Boulder County. At the request of some subdivision residents, we had put on the ballot a modest countywide tax increase to pay for this and other road projects. Unfortunately, Issue 1A failed by a margin of 46% to 54%.

“We remain committed to solving this issue. The voters of Boulder County have spoken and they do not agree with new taxes for subdivision road rehabilitation. However, the margin of defeat was relatively close especially given the lack of an organized campaign for the measure. Also notable was the fact that 84% of Knollwood subdivision residents voted to increase their taxes to pay for about 70% of the cost of repaving their roads, with the County contributing the balance. We believe the solution lies in following Knollwood’s example by negotiating with individual subdivisions to arrive at a joint funding solution that includes contributions from subdivision residents as well as the County.”

About 85 percent of Boulder County citizens live in cities, leaving the other 15 percent of residents in the subdivision or rural areas in question.

Hirsch said that the relatively close vote count shows that many in the city are supportive of the county maintaining the roads — but without adding new taxes.

BoCoFIRM sent the Courier a release of its own concerning the matter.

“Boulder County Commissioners have now exhausted all of their options, save one, for addressing the issue of road maintenance in Boulder County. The citizens of Boulder County, fully aware of the severity of the road problem, have told the Commissioners with their rejection of Ballot Issue 1A that we want our roads fixed using currently available funds from existing revenue streams.

“As the Commissioners themselves argued, the roads in Boulder County have become a safety issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The Commissioners, when advocating for Ballot Issue 1A, also stated that the amount of money that would have been raised by the 1A tax would be ‘modest.’

“Boulder County is not a poor county. In fact it is one of the wealthiest counties in the country consistently ranking in the top one - two percent of all counties in the United States. Boulder County has more than sufficient revenue in its current revenue stream to address the road maintenance problem without impacting other county projects. BoCo FIRM also believes it is fiscally irresponsible for the Commissioners to continue to retain excessive reserves earning practically no interest while the cost to fix ours roads dramatically increases every year.

“The County Commissioners will finalize the County’s 2017 Budget in the coming weeks. By simply increasing the allocation of the property tax mil levy to the Road and Bridge Fund to the level that would have resulted if Issue 1A had passed, 0.971 mills, the issue of the deteriorating transportation infrastructure throughout Boulder county will be addressed. This allocation of our tax dollars, less than 2.5% of the County’s total budget, is exactly the amount that the Transportation Department told the Commissioners is needed to alleviate the problems with county roads.

“The residents of Boulder County have sent a clear and unambiguous message to the County Commissioners. Fix our roads without new taxes. Starting now.”


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