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ARCHIVED  October 22, 1999

TABOR issues crowd region’s ballots

The process of undoing what tax activist Douglas Bruce did seven years ago will be put to voters in Northern Colorado’s smallest towns and biggest counties Nov. 2.

The word for shedding the effects of the Bruce-sponsored Taxpayers Bill of Rights, known far and wide as TABOR, is “de-Brucing.” The odd word and the strange acronym puzzle newcomers trying to make sense of election stories in daily newspapers.

Bruce’s measure, which caps revenue and spending by state, county and local governments, has been criticized for paralyzing towns, cities, counties and school districts as they cope with burgeoning growth. TABOR, opponents say, also halts government spending for construction projects, employment growth, land purchases and major equipment buys that feed local businesses.

Larimer County Manager Frank Lancaster has said the voters’ decision on de-Brucing is the most important ballot measure of the past decade, and says Larimer County is headed for a $1 million budget shortfall in the coming year if de-Brucing fails.

The TABOR questions are but a few of the issues that voters will face on election day that have implications for business. Others include:

” A proposal to raise Larimer County’s sales tax to build and operate a $57 million fairgrounds and events center at Interstate 25 and Crossroads Boulevard between Fort Collins and Loveland. The tax would add a penny and a half to a $10 purchase.

” A measure to extend by 15 years Larimer County’s quarter-cent sales and use tax earmarked for acquisition of open space, parks and wildlife habitat. If voters decide to extend the current tax, set to expire in 2004, $54 million will be raised to purchase open lands.

” A $16.9 million bond issue to build new elementary schools in Weld County’s towns of Lochbuie and Keenesburg, and refurbish schools throughout the RE-3J district.

” A measure to raise $14.2 million through bond sales to fund street, sewer, water and other public works projects in fast-growing Loveland.

Larimer County’s ballot measures, particularly the fairgrounds and open space provisions that total $111 million in new funding, put voters in the position of deciding the lion’s share of public project financing in Northern Colorado.

The open-space proposal has the backing of business community pillars, including the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Realtors and the Northern Colorado Home Builders Association.

But opponents say the measure will send prices of land parcels adjoining new open space skyrocketing, kill opportunities for affordable-housing development and ring towns and cities with “moats” of open space that drive up housing prices in urban centers.

The fairgrounds tax would pay for a 6,000-seat events center, a 50,000-square-foot exhibition building and a 24,000-square-foot community center as parts of the first construction phase, putting the project among the most expensive institutional construction endeavors in the region.

While the open space and fairgrounds issues grab most pre-election headlines and take the most space in daily newspaper letters columns, the TABOR questions have far-reaching implications for future spending. Among the government bodies that will seek voter approval to de-Bruce, in addition to Larimer County, are the cities of Greeley and Brighton, towns of Windsor, Johnstown and Frederick, the Thompson Valley School District, the Aims Community College District and the tiny Pawnee Fire Protection District.

The process of undoing what tax activist Douglas Bruce did seven years ago will be put to voters in Northern Colorado’s smallest towns and biggest counties Nov. 2.

The word for shedding the effects of the Bruce-sponsored Taxpayers Bill of Rights, known far and wide as TABOR, is “de-Brucing.” The odd word and the strange acronym puzzle newcomers trying to make sense of election stories in daily newspapers.

Bruce’s measure, which caps revenue and spending by state, county and local governments, has been criticized for paralyzing towns, cities, counties and school districts as they cope with burgeoning growth. TABOR, opponents say, also…

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