Water district seeks to 'de-Bruce'

By Tamie Meck


The North Fork Water Conservancy District is asking voters to approve a change in the use of the district's mill levy to allow it to access state funds for needed repair and maintenance projects, and to leverage grants.

Ballot question 4A of the Nov. 3 coordinated election seeks to "de-bruce" funding restrictions created by the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). Under TABOR, state governmental entities, including water districts, are restricted from raising tax rates without voter approval, and areprevented from spending of indexed revenues when annual growth is greater than the rates of inflation and population growth.

Passage would allow the district to access money already collected through its special taxing district established in 1972 and currently set at .561 mills. That money, according to district board president Tom Alvey, mostly goes toward payment to the federal Bureau of Reclamation for construction of the Paonia Project, which includes the Paonia Dam and Reservoir. The project, which dates back to the early 1960s, also enlarged and extended Fire Mountain Canal and increased storage capacity in the Leroux Creek area.

A small portion of the mill levy goes toward the district's operating budget, which generates about $14,000 to $15,000 a year. That allows the district, which has an all-volunteer board, to pay a small salary to its secretary, and to perform limited maintenance repairs and small projects and provide small grants to other area ditch companies, said Alvey.

The district plans to use additional funds for repairs and maintenance of the system and modernization projects, with no increases in the mill levy or taxes. Alvey said that money would go toward much-needed repairs to the aging Fire Mountain Canal and other ditches located within the district, and toward ongoing projects, including continuing efforts to minimize the effects of sediment flowing from Muddy Creek into Paonia Reservoir which takes away needed storage capacity.

Also under TABOR, special taxing districts must count all non-federal grant money received toward revenue limits. Passage of 4A will allow the district to pursue more grant money and be more creative with its funding sources by excluding state grant money from its revenue limits.

The measure is on the ballot alongside Proposition BB, which also involves the Taxpayer Bill of Rights as it relates to public schools, which Alvey said can cause confusion and isn't related.