Election ballot deadline looming for Teller Residents — Rick Langenberg

Elections Matter 2015 9p4 logo

The 2015 election deadline is days away in Teller County for a slew of municipal and special district votes that will have big impacts on the area’s future.

Altogether, voters in various parts of Teller will collectively decide the fate of three local ballot propositions and five elected positions. In addition, residents will cast tallies on a state question dealing with marijuana-related tax revenue.

But with only a week remaining to submit ballot choices, the preliminary participation in the 2015 off-year election is still fairly light.

According Teller County Clerk and Recorder Krystal Brown, only 1,500 ballots have been submitted, as of Oct. 22. There are an estimated 15,000 registered voters in the county. However, the clerk’s office usually experiences a strong surge in return ballots in the final week.

Nov. 3 is the final D-day for registered voters to return their ballots. The 2015 vote is being handled through a mail-in format. Ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. that day.

The election features several key ballot questions that could have significant consequences for sections of the county.

Throughout Woodland Park and many parts of northern and central Teller, voters will decide on the fate of an annual 1-cent sales tax hike to provide additional funding for the Ute Pass Regional Health Service District, formerly known as the Ute Pass Regional Ambulance District.

If approved by the voters of the district, the monies would generate about $1.45 million a year, and provide a needed boost in offsetting the impacts of the Affordable Health Care Act. It also would pave the way for another ambulance and for better service, according to district leaders.

The ambulance district has incurred many financial woes due to declining reimbursement levels from Medicare/Medicaid and other insurance payments. This has financially challenged the district, which is experiencing a big increase in calls and ambulance transports, but is encountering a decline in overall insurance payments, prompted by the changing dynamics of the insurance industry due to the Affordable Health Care Act.

As a result, district leaders say they need additional revenue to avoid reducing services. “This takes the financial worry out of calling 911 for an ambulance and ensures quality care when you need it,” said Tim Dienst, executive director of the district, when describing the theme of their (4A) campaign.

However, the sales tax push has its opponents and cynics, and received a cold greeting by members of the Woodland Park City Council during a recent presentation. Several council members believe Woodland Park would bear the brunt of the proposed tax hike and have cited the difficulty historically for such a proposition to pass. They have asked district operators to consider other alternatives.

In Victor, voters will decide on some rather bold propositions. One of these calls for the complete elimination of state-mandated term limits for council members and for the mayor. Proponents of this idea say the democratic process permits citizens to vote incumbents out of office if they choose. Plus, they cite the difficulty of finding qualified individuals to serve these seats. If successful, this proposition would reverse a political trend in Teller that largely favors term limits.

Victor voters also will decide on another question that would make the positions of clerk and treasurer as appointed, instead of elected slots. This is following a trend that is becoming more popular in other municipalities.

Voters also will deal with a state proposition that would permit the government to retain excess marijuana tax revenue and spend $40 million for public school building construction, law enforcement, youth programs and cannabis education. Otherwise, these funds will be refunded to retail marijuana facilities, cannabis buyers and other taxpayers. Proponents say these funds are needed to deal with many impacts created by Amendment 64. Detractors say cannabis establishments are already taxed way too much.

Contested Council Seats
The election also will feature several contested seats in Cripple Creek and Victor.

Current incumbent Mayor Bruce Brown doesn’t face any competition and will retain his seat for his final four-year term as the town’s head elected leader. Also, former mayor Tom Litherland will gain the seat as a Ward Four representative.

But in the race for a Ward 5 seat, local business owner Chris Hazlett is facing a challenge from former museum operator Les Batson.

In Victor, Tarla Perdew will square-off with write-in contender Diana Bowman for the Ward 1 seat. However, Bowman’s name doesn’t appear on the ballot. For the Ward 2 race, voters will decide between Terry Akins and Jon Strever.

For more information about the Nov. 3 election, and if you haven’t received a ballot, call the Teller County Clerk and Recorder’s Office at 719-689-2951, or visit their locations in Cripple Creek and in Woodland Park.