Officials with the La Plata Archuleta Water District announced Tuesday they will not seek a vote in November on a mill levy to fund the district, citing public sentiment against a tax increase amid tough economic times."People do not support any type of tax increase at the moment," said Dick Lunceford, president of the water district's board.
He said the board is now looking at a May 2010 vote on the mill levy, with the interim spent making the case to members of the district that it's worth the expense.
Lunceford and Amy Kraft, who works for Harris Water Engineering and has been contracted to work on a master plan for the district, appeared before La Plata County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday to give them an update.
Last year, voters narrowly approved creation of the district, which aims to establish a rural water system in areas of southeast La Plata where resident depend on wells or trucked-in water. The vote was 481 in favor, 449 opposed.
Officials are now seeking passage of the mill levy to fund the system.
A brochure being distributed by the district estimates that the property-tax increase for a $250,000 home would be $8.25 per month, or about $99 a year.
An average monthly water bill would be $40-$50 per month depending on water use, the brochure states.
Lunceford said that while there is support for the goal of the district, property owners are loath to pay more taxes while the national economic outlook is so unstable.
In the meantime, officials will lead a grass-roots effort to build support for the levy, including publicizing two steps they are taking to increase the district's appeal. One seeks to address the concerns of property owners who might find themselves paying the tax for years before the system's network of pipes reaches them. The district will tally the taxes paid to the district and deduct that from the one-time $4,500 tap fee they must pay to be hooked in.
Also, people who live in subdivisions will be able to apply their tap fees toward the construction of pipelines to connect residences in the subdivision to the system. While the district covers the cost of pipes on public rights of way, it doesn't pay the expense on private roads. But the tap fee would go to help defray those costs for people in subdivisions.
Lunceford said the current tax valuation of property in the district is about $1 billion, 80 percent of which comes from gas and oil companies. Lunceford said that 11 gas companies are members of the district. Though they will be required to pay the tax if it passes, most won't be eligible to vote on the mill levy because of restrictions in the state law governing special districts.
Lunceford has said he expects the district to have as many as 5,500 customers in 20 years. The estimated cost of the system would be $85 million or higher.
Water for the project likely will come from the Los Pinos and Animas rivers.
This could include water from Lake Nighthorse, the reservoir being filled south of Durango, and Vallecito Reservoir. Kraft said Bayfield had been approached about building a joint water-treatment plant.