Citizen group looking for poll query to divert Wheeler cash falls brief on signatures

A group of residents failed to meet Friday’s deadline to submit 925 signatures from registered Aspen voters to ask a question on the November vote calling for re-use of some of the property transfer tax revenue given to the Wheeler Opera House goes, is required.

Kurt Hall, a member of the group that began their efforts earlier this week, said he did not have a final count of signatures on Friday because multiple people were collected and no count had been taken.

“We’re going to move on and when we get to 925 we are going to go before (Aspen City Council) and hope they see this as confirmation,” Hall said. “Even though we missed the deadline, the pressure will mount and our concern, approach and goal will be spread throughout the community.

“It’s not over yet; it has only just begun. “

They try to split the income so that half goes to the wheeler and the other to art.

The question was also to lift the existing cap of $ 100,000 in Wheeler Real Estate Tax (WRETT) income, which is spent on cultural, arts and music organizations in the valley.

A majority of voters agreed to this in 1979 and all WRETTs went to the wheeler.

In 2016, voters extended the WRETT until 2039.

The city could put its own measure on the November vote and has until September 3, but councilors said earlier this year that they were unwilling to ask voters a question about diverting future Wheeler funds, and preferred the elections in autumn 2022.

advice discussed for months about how much money should be diverted and where it should go.

Identified areas of need that the council has focused on include childcare, health and social services, rainwater, and the non-profit arts community.

Mayor Torre said this week that the group trying to split the revenue 50-50 hasn’t done the financial modeling the city is doing to make sure enough money goes to historic Wheeler.

The fund currently has just under $ 40 million.

He also said the group misrepresented that its members tried to work with city officials.

“They turned around and came up with ballot papers with no financial models,” said Torre. “They didn’t take part in any dialogue … the way they approached it wasn’t collaborative.”

City Secretary Nicole Henning accepted the group’s petition Monday after rejecting an earlier petition asking voters to lift the $ 100,000 cap and give the Aspen School District a $ 10 million grant to approve the modernization and renovation of the 550 seats Aspen District Theater and 150-seat black box space.

The language of the petition is not a legislative matter, so Henning concluded and stated in a letter that the granting of funds was an administrative act by a state body.

While the group needed a significant amount of money to renovate the district theater, the additional money released could also fund dozens of local arts and cultural organizations and organizations, which the city would decide on through a grant process.

The WRETT, a 0.5% tax on all property transfers in the city, averages between $ 2 million and $ 4 million per year, although that number was higher in 2020 and likely to be in 2021 as Aspen continues to see record home sales.

csackariason@aspentimes.com