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Carbondale trustees considering energy-tax ballot question

Funds would pay for energy projects

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

Chances are, Carbondale residents will be asked next April to vote on whether to tax themselves to pay for energy-efficiency projects and programs, such as those conducted the past few years by CLEER and CORE.

“This funding would give the town the ability to invest in renewable energy projects,” said trustee Allyn Harvey after Tuesday night’s board meeting. “It would be an opportunity for residents to decide if they want to make those energy efficiency programs permanent.”

At Tuesday night’s meeting, mayor Stacey Bernot said the town has spent close to $2 million over the past 10 years for energy-efficiency upgrades to town facilities, and for memberships in the non-profits CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region) and CORE (Community Office for Resource Management) and for their projects.

That money has come from the town’s general fund, which for the past decade has been boosted by up to $300,000 to $400,00 per year from state and federal mineral taxes and fees generated from natural gas drilling in Garfield County.

Bernot said that some trustees have talked about the town generating an independent tax flow to pay for energy-efficiency projects so that it will be less reliant on severance funds for balancing the town budget in the future.

Earlier in the year, Bernot met with a CORE staffer who came up with several tax scenarios. One scenario is based on a tax assessed on electric bills from Xcel Energy and Holy Cross, which would average $35 per year for residences and $100 per year for businesses, and raise about $125,000.

For comparison, the trustees have penciled in CLEER and CORE for $25,000 each in the 2014 budget, plus $65,000 for an “extraordinary project,” according to Harvey. Such a project would presumably involve CLEER and CORE.

Harvey gave several examples for projects the new tax could fund, such as solar panels for RFTA park-and-ride lots and a hydro project for the town’s Nettle Creek water plant.

Harvey said he expects the trustees to continue discussing the tax proposal in December and they would have to finalize ballot language in February. Town residents will also be voting in mayoral and trustee races in April.