It’s all about the numbers
By Mark Reaman
What could have been a raucous meeting apparently turned into an example of democracy in action Monday night as the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District (Met Rec) board discussed the upcoming ballot issue. That issue is asking voters to “de-Bruce” the district. By voting to de-Bruce the district the Met Rec would not be under the financial restrictions of the Colorado TABOR (Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights) amendment that has resulted in a decrease in funds.
The agenda for the September 17 meeting had been updated over the weekend to add two items of new business that included the “Possibility of cancelling participation in the November election” and discussion about a “Change of Service Plan to cease providing TV operations.”
About a half dozen people showed up at the Monday meeting, upset over the idea of the district possibly cutting back the free television element of the organization. Met Rec board treasurer Ian Billick said that after an engaging and good discussion, the people at the meeting understood the financial dilemma the district was facing and now appear on board with the ballot issue.
“There were a lot of good questions and an interesting discussion,” Billick said. “It was a good demonstration of how a democracy can work.”
Part of that demonstration was explaining how under the TABOR restrictions the district’s budget had been ratcheted down so that it now brings in about $300,000 per year. That’s because under TABOR, once the mill levy is adjusted down it can’t go back up to what was originally approved by voters without the district being de-Bruced. If it could rise, the district would be seeing an annual revenue stream of closer to $500,000.
“If the issue passes this November the mill levy can go back to the original one mill approved by voters and that would result in another $200,000 per year,” explained Billick. “Right now our future costs to maintain the television aspect of the district are about $400,000 annually. That is just the cost of replacing equipment and operations. So if the vote fails we can’t keep up with the current level of television service.”
Billick said he told the people at the meeting that the district efforts to de-Bruce had failed twice already; he felt that was because the board had counted on television users to carry the day. But they didn’t. So the current board has pledged to continue television operations if the district is de-Bruced but also provide money for recreational projects in the valley. The idea is that the district can provide a valuable role for recreationalists and get them on board to vote for the ballot issue this November.
“We need broader community support for the de-Brucing effort and that should include the recreation community,” said Billick. “De-Brucing would provide money for both recreation and TV. The Monday meeting dynamic was talking through the numbers. I just don’t think we can pass this issue with just TV support. Basically, at the end of the day we want voters to have a say in the district and how it spends its money.”
Billick reiterated that the district has spent money already in the recreation realm and using such funds as matching grants for big projects has proven effective. He also pointed out that if the ballot issue is passed, the district could get more income from renting some of its infrastructure to support telecommunications.
The issue will be on the upcoming ballot.