DougCo commissioners debate putting open space tax extension on ballot

Mike McKibbin

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The Dupont open space is among the many overseen by the Douglas County Open Space program.Douglas County

By Mike McKibbin/NewsBreak Denver

Correction: This story originally said the Douglas County open space sales and use tax rate was 1.17%. This is incorrect. The rate is 0.17% of the overall Douglas County sales tax rate of 1%.

[DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO] Voters might decide whether to continue Douglas County's current 0.17% open space sales and use tax this fall.

Commissioners Abe Laydon and Lora Thomas supported that proposal during a Monday work session, while Commissioner George Teal suggested a citizen poll to gauge support.

Teal noted the open space tax failed in Castle Rock the last time it was on the ballot.

The county created the open space program in 1994 when voters approved a sixth-of-a-cent sales and use tax that protects over 63,000 acres of open space land. The tax also helps fund county parks and trails.

David Weinstein with the Trust for Public Lands, a nonprofit conservation agency working with the county, said an opinion poll likely would cost between $35,000 to $40,000.

He will ask the trust and other conservation groups to pay for the poll rather than ask the county.

Laydon noted last year's county citizen survey found support for open space was "off the charts."

"I'm really proud of how this 0.17% tax has been used to operate and staff our open space program," he added.

Complicated ballot?

Jay Sage, with a citizen group for the open space tax, said the group estimated getting a citizen initiative on the ballot to continue or increase the tax would cost over $150,000, which he called "very expensive."

Laydon and Thomas said they would favor referring the continuation question to the ballot this year or 2023. The tax ends in 2024.

Thomas also said the county likely would refer a broadband question to this year's ballot and is worried about possible competing questions regarding a statewide cap on property taxes.

"I hope we don't confuse voters with a very long ballot that will already be confusing" with several state and municipal issues, she said.

Other concerns were the possibility of a founder of the county open space tax, Dave Watts, possibly placing a competing initiative on the ballot to increase the tax.

"Dave has the resources to complicate the ballot this year," Thomas said.

County officials plan to meet with Watts to discuss his plans and the county's intentions.

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Mike McKibbin is an independent journalist on Colorado's Front Range and covers Douglas County for NewsBreak.

Denver, CO
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