Vote ‘No’ on Ballot Issue 2A | Guest Commentary
by Judi Kiernan
May 21, 2007 | 247 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Uncertain Payback of Massive Debt

To date we have spent nearly $3 million of town funds in pursuit of the Valley Floor. Now we are being asked to approve $20 million in additional debt that will cost $39 million to $55.8 million (principle and interest) to repay, depending on interest rates at the time of bonding. The revenue stream for this massive expense is based on the next 30 years of RETT and sales/use tax income. Given the current state of the national economy and real estate in particular, not to mention the dire predictions for global warming, does this seem a tad risky to you?

Significant Shortfall of Funds

If we go to court and the ruling is a middle-ground compromise on the appraisals, the purchase price will be around $38.5 million, plus our costs to date and all the costs of SMVC, or roughly $46.5 million in principal alone. If 2A passes, we will have $30 million to spend … so where will we get the other $16.5 million? SMA claims to have commitments for $6.5 million, though there is no written proof of this claim … and this is hardly the overwhelming support of the local rich and famous that we were promised. And this does not include any money for the much-needed reclamation of the property, which is conservatively estimated to cost $15 million, nor any funds to pay for the inevitable legal appeal from SMVC. Let’s get real … we are in way over our heads.

Some Perspective

What else could the Town of Telluride do with this kind of money? Just think about it for a moment. Is it socially responsible to spend these millions of dollars of public money on a park? We’re a town surrounded on three sides by Public Land in a county that is 67 percent Public Land. And to then tell our 700 school kids they cannot use any of this “park” as a second ball field? If this park is not for our kids, then who is it for?

Since the 80s, the Town of Aspen, despite it’s many mistakes, has collected a 2 percent real estate transfer tax (RETT) with half dedicated to affordable housing. Today, Aspen houses 65 percent of its workforce within the town, in 2,700 affordable housing units.

In contrast, Telluride has collected a 3 percent RETT since the 80s, with all of it targeted to capital improvements (streets, town offices, etc.), and with nothing dedicated to affordable housing. As a result, we have only 272 affordable housing units in the town today. We currently house roughly 544 people out of a population of approximately 2,350, or 23 percent – one-third the percentage of locals housed in Aspen. They got this one right.

Are We Preserving the Valley Floor at the Expense of Preserving Our Community? What does this say about priorities in this community? We have choices, folks. The 20 Percent Solution is not an absolute, it’s a choice, and can be modified at any time to support affordable housing or other pressing community needs – unless we encumber that fund for the next 30 years to pay for these bonds. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate our real needs vs. our wish list.

Telluride sees itself an educated, progressive community, but the Valley Floor issue has degenerated from rational debate into a well-financed crusade based on misinformation and emotional fervor, with any dissent viewed as heresy. Let’s step back and take a good look at the costs and the consequences of this issue … and vote “No” on Ballot Issue 2A.
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