With no Town Council members up for election in 2018, the Town of Telluride did not even schedule a municipal election this year until Sept. 6. But, following a summer of impassioned debates, mostly concerning affordable housing, the town then moved to arrange an election to address summer-borne ballot measures 2A, 2B and 2C.
In case voters were overwhelmed by the bulky ballot this midterm year, it might pay to remind the electorate what these measures targeted.
Ballot issue 2A proposed a 2 mill increase that would result in an approximate $72 tax increase on a residential property valued at $500,000. In total, if the mill levy passes, the town estimates it would see $554,000 flow into its coffers for affordable housing.
Were Ballot Issue 2B to be approved, sales taxes would increase by a half-cent and would fund approximately an additional $900,000 for affordable housing in Telluride. The current half-cent tax already in place for affordable housing — voters approved the tax in 1995 — raised $761,048.48 in 2017.
The third ballot issue on the 2018 municipal ballot, 2C, was linked to 2A. Because of TABOR requirements, a separate ballot is called for when asking voters to approve bonding (debt) with the money collected if 2A passed.
At 10 p.m., 2A seemed destined for defeat. Yet updated results flipped the script. and affordable housing suddenly gained new approval. Despite losing in vote tallies earlier, 2A rebounded to gain 51.22 percent approval (versus 48.78 percent against). 2B, meanwhile, ping longed between victory and defeat before ultimately going down, with 49.02 percent in favor and 50.98 percent against. 2C, which always seemed as if it would pass, did indeed by a 52.43 to 47.57 margin.
Reached at an election watch event at Cornerhouse before affordable housing’s late-game comeback, council members Tom Watkinson and Todd Brown were pragmatic if disappointed. Indeed, Watkinson opined that 2A was always a tough sell to voters.
“One of my concerns with 2A is that it was another mill levy going up against the Telluride Fire Protection District, the schools and the Telluride Regional Medical Center,” he said. “I was afraid (for it) because people always vote their passions” for the special districts.
Because of the competing mill levies, Watkinson favored passage of 2B — the sales tax increase — to fund affordable housing. “2B is an alternative decision that could fund affordable housing as fast as possible in a year. People can afford a half-cent tax increase.”
If by chance the results changed in the wee hours, Watkinson and Brown maintained Telluride has other options to fund affordable housing. Both pointed to several town-owned properties that could be turned into affordable housing units or sold on the free market to generate revenues.
Said Watkinson, “We’re not out of tricks. We do have land we can sell.” But he did not actually need to look for a silver lining in a dark cloud as the voters seemed to chase, at the last minute, away all affordable housing clouds.
Both Watkinson and Brown looked forward to opportunities presented by double- or triple-decker parking lots at both Carhenge and Shandoka.
Said Brown, “We already own land, but (affordable housing) buildings are $20 to $40 million projects, and we only get $1 million a year in revenues. There’s only so much we can do.”
Interviewed when 2A and 2B were losing, Brown said, “I’m disappointed affordable housing didn’t pass because we’re running out of money next year.”
He added, “I’m disappointed in the electorate because affordable housing has been the No. 1 issue all six years I’ve been on council, and when it comes to putting our money where our mouths are, it doesn’t happen.”
Except, at the last minute, when it does.