17 Jul TELLURIDE NEWS IN BRIEF – COUNCIL EYES REALLOCATION OF OPEN SPACE FUND – TOWN MANAGER SAYS REDIRECTED MONIES MIGHT BE SPENT ON INFRASTRUCTURE, WASTEWATER, STREETS BY ASHLEY BUNTON ASSOCIATE EDITOR, TELLURIDE DAILY PLANET, JUL 14, 2023
By Ashley Bunton, Associate Editor, Telluride Daily Planet, July 14th – 2023
A proposed municipal code change would leave voters with 5% of tax revenues going to Telluride’s Open Space Fund which was set in 1994 at 20% by Ballot measure F.
Telluride Town Council met Tuesday and accepted public comments on an ordinance to reallocate funds and voted to approve the second reading. The 15% reallocated from the Open Space Fund would go to a new “Reserve Capital Improvement Fund,” according to a staff memo presented at the meeting.
Voting in favor were council members Adrienne Christy, Geneva Shaunette, Dan Enright, Lars Carlson and Mayor Pro Tem Meehan Fee. Council member Jessie Rae Arguelles cast a no vote and the motion passed 5-1.
Arguelles said she voted no, not because she was opposed to reallocating the funds, but rather because she “wanted to see this go back to the voters.”
During the meeting discussion, Telluride Town Manager Scott Robson said, “We’ve discussed this item for quite a few months now at this point.”
Robson gave a brief overview regarding the background information on the voter mandate on open space.
“We, with those funds, have been able to do amazing things like purchase of the Valley Floor and Bear Creek, in particular,” Robson said. “After some discussions with the Open Space Commission, in particular, and a lot of good work by Lance McDonald, our programs director, we really worked to identify what the annual costs have been now and looking into the future to maintain our open spaces to a high-quality level…”
Costs were looked at for trail and footbridge maintenance and other projects designated to be implemented through future work plans.
Robson also said the reallocated funds could instead be spent on things like water infrastructure, wastewater treatment and streets for “this generation’s most pressing needs within the Town of Telluride.”
Robson said there have been “good and open conversations with Open Space Commission.”
“As we look at our current Open Space Fund, that is, I believe, somewhere a little bit north of $3 million dollars right now, we know that we’re in a good position if and when that next open space opportunity, acquisition opportunity comes up, that we’re in a place where we’ve got robust matching dollars, no doubt we always go after grants,” Robson explained. “We’ve got multiple levers within town finances that we can pull.”
The revenues are generated from sales, use, real estate, property and business license taxes and fees, town staff said.
At a prior meeting in January, Telluride Finance Director Kailey Ranta updated council and said, “Over the past five years since 2018, the total revenues coming into the Open Space Fund were about $2.8 million and then 2019, ’20 and ’21 were higher due to higher real estate transfer tax revenue.”
Telluride Town Attorney Kevin Geiger said the town started looking at its budget discussions in the fall of 2022 and the town has “taken care of” its finance obligations “well in advance.”
“There’s a lot to be happy about there and there’s also a lot to look forward to in terms of funding new improvement projects for the town and the community in general,” Geiger said.
Robson said to “be able to issue certificates of participation, or COPs,” is another part of the Town’s intent behind the decisionmaking regarding the reallocation.
During public comment, Open Space Commission Chair Angela Dye said potential projects were assessed for the next five years.
“The commission in general still feels comfortable that the 5% will be adequate,” she said, “and especially in the case of what we would consider a reserve fund for things to be covered if they come up. We appreciate the support of council on it very much. And while we can’t bind future councils, we would hope that they would continue to offer that support.”