In Tuesday’s municipal elections, Cortez voters approved a measure to extend and reduce the sales tax that funds the Cortez Recreation Center.
Voters also elected new board members for in Cortez, Mancos and Dolores, including a new mayor for Dolores.
Cortez voters approved Ballot Issue 2A, with a vote of 1,009 to 465. It allows a modified sales tax to continue funding the rec center past its planned sunset date of Dec. 31, 2021. The sales tax will be reduced from the current tax rate of 0.55 percent to 0.35 percent.
In Cortez, eight candidates, including two incumbents, ran for five open seats on the City Council.
Incumbents Orly Lucero and Jill Carlson were both re-elected, receiving 972 votes and 760 votes, respectively.
Voters also elected new council members Michael Lavey with 633 votes, Gary Noyes with 630 votes, and Sue Betts with 624 votes.
Mancos voters re-elected two incumbents along with two new board members.
Incumbents Cindy Simpson and Fred Brooks were re-elected. Simpson received 124 votes, and Brooks got 136 votes.
Voters also elected new board members Betsy Harrison 176 votes, and Brent McWhirter, who had 168 votes.
In Dolores, voters elected Chad Wheelus for mayor. He earned 154 votes to Jerry Whited’s 119. Wheelus will serve a two-year term.
The winning candidates for the four positions on the Dolores Town Board are: Tracy Murphy, 139 votes; Jennifer Stark, 127; Melissa Watters, 113; and Val Truelsen, 106.
Funding continues for Rec Center
Voters overwhelmingly showed their support to continue a sales tax to operate the popular recreation center in downtown Cortez. Currently, 5.5 cents out of every $10 spent at a Cortez business goes to support the rec center, but it was due to sunset. Voters approved a measure that will reduce the tax to 3.5 cents per $10 starting in 2022.
The current sales tax was approved by voters in 2001, and helped fund the rec center’s construction. The debts the city incurred during construction will be paid off in 2021, but Deb Berger, treasurer of the Citizens for Recreation, said the building will still need the extra revenue after that.
“The rec center was never designed to be self-supporting with just the fees,” she said. “It needed to be supplemented with sales tax.”
Joye McHenry, the rec center supervisor, said its average annual expenses total about $962,500, while its average annual revenue is about $517,000 without the sales tax, based on estimates from the past eight years. Starting next year, the city plans to undertake several major repairs on the building, such as replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and repaving the parking lot.
McHenry also noted the building’s personnel costs are going up with the increased state minimum wage.
Since it was passed, the 0.55 percent sales tax has brought an average of more than $1.2 million to the rec center annually, out of which $690,000 has gone to loan payments every year.