Voters in 1996 rejected a proposal for a variety of courthouse and jail improvements, including a new courthouse. But supporters this time have bent over backwards to address voters˜ concerns over how the proposal was structured, and have slashed millions from the cost in the process.
The current proposal comes in two separate ballot measures, itself a change from 1996, when everything was lumped together. Issue 1 seeks $28.2 million for a new courthouse, $12 million to renovate the current courthouse, $4.9 million for a sheriff˜s building, $3.3 million for a new parking structure, $3.6 million for improvements to courthouse facilities in Loveland, and $600,000 to renovate existing county offices.
Issue 2 seeks $12 million for a jail expansion and $3 million per year for operations and maintenance. Both proposals would be paid for by a sales tax and would cost a total of 4 cents on a $10 purchase.
How do the proposals differ from last year? This year˜s version saves almost 50 percent compared with last year˜s because the taxes end at a specified time (no longer than 15 years for Issue 1, no longer than 17 years for Issue 2). Additionally, food and medicine are exempt from the tax.
Supporters also have slashed millions from the parking-garage project. The $9.9 million cost will be split by the county, the Downtown Development Authority and the City of Fort Collins.
Voters should remember that many of these courthouse and jail improvements are being driven by the state court system. They˜re not options; they˜re mandates. If voters reject this tax, huge cuts will have to be made in county programs to find another way to pay for them.
Voters should enter the ballot box with "yes" on their minds.