School mill levies, hospital project, ambulance district get thumbs-up

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Voters in Montezuma and Dolores counties were generally in a generous mood when they cast their ballots for the Nov. 3 election. They passed measures to grant mill-levy increases in two school districts, fund a hospital expansion and form an ambulance district. In the last case, however, they didn’t provide actual monies for the district.

Here is a roundup of local questions:

  • Voters said yes to the Montezuma County Hospital District’s request for a sales and use tax of 4 cents on every $10 to pay for an expansion of Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez. The expansion will include a new, secure, state-of-the-art patient wing and an ambulance garage.

The vote was 3,679 to 2,592, 59 percent to 41 percent.

  • The Dolores Water Conservancy District was successful in its measure seeking to fix its mill levy at its current rate and retain any revenues it receives above its TABOR limit. The district had said it needs the monies to keep up with many challenges, including drought and the threat of invasive species in McPhee Reservoir.

The vote was 2,708 to 1,729 (61 to 39 percent).

  • Dolores School District Re-4A won passage of a measure to extend an existing mill levy for another eight years. The mill levy, which generates about $390,000 per year, was scheduled to sunset in 2016 but now will sunset in 2024. Administrators had said the district, like many others around the state, is struggling to deal with budget cuts imposed by the legislature.

The vote was 823 to 437, or about 65 to 35 percent.

  • The Dolores County School District, Re-2J, also succeeded in getting voter approval for a mill-levy override to deal with budget cuts. In this case, the levy would increase by 3 mills over the current 15 mills, producing about $350,000 a year. The increase would sunset in 2022.

The measure passed 448 to 340, or 57 to 43 percent.

  • Voters statewide, as well as in Montezuma and Dolores counties individually, passed the only question on the ballot for Colorado, Proposition BB, which allows some $66 million in marijuana taxes to be retained by the state for school construction and other purposes, rather than being returned to voters in small amounts.

In Montezuma County, the measure passed 4,344 votes to 1,934 (69 to 31 percent). In Dolores County, it passed 506 votes to 263, or 66 percent to 34. Statewide, it garnered about 69 percent of the vote.

  • Dolores County citizens gave a mixed message to supporters of the creation of an ambulance district to serve the western part of the large, rural county. A question calling for the organization of the ambulance district passed 484 votes to 298 (62 to 38 percent), but two related questions – one to give the ambulance district a mill levy, the other to let it “de-Bruce” (keep revenues over the TABOR limit) — failed by nearly identical margins, roughly 48 percent to 52 percent for both.

“What it says is voters like the idea of the organized ambulance district, they just didn’t like the funding plan,” said Floyd Smith, an attorney who worked for the organizers and prepared the district service plan.

The district now will be formally organized through a filing in District Court and a subsequent court decree, Smith said. A board will be elected and the district will carry out its functions.

However, he said, “they will just have to find funding sources,” such as grants or reimbursement by users.

“The glass is either half full or half empty,” Smith said.

“It’s not a total loss and not totally unheard of.” He said the Durango Fire Protection District in La Plata County was created by voters in 2006, but they twice rejected a mill levy to fund it before approving a plan involving a contract with the city.

Smith said the new ambulance district will now have to work with the current nonprofit corporation that provides ambulance services in Dolores County to coordinate how services will be provided.

“It will be up to their board and the board of the district how best to move forward and provide whatever level of service they can,” Smith said.

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From November 2015. Read similar stories about .