NOTE: This Q&A page is frequently revised to reflect updated information. All the information listed here comes directly from county sources, including budget and ballot information. It’s here to help Gilpin County voters make an informed choice PRO or CON on the ballot regarding the Parks & Recreation Department. Please check back often. The FAQ begins after this opening background info and Mill Levy Ballot language.
On August 21st, we hosted a Town Meeting about the mill levy at the Community Center. We invited County officials to share their views on the mill levy and answer questions from the public about the issue. A number of people from around the county participated, sharing both PRO and CON points of view.
The Town Hall was the last time county officials could legally speak publicly about the issue before it went on the ballot. You are invited to watch the video at the link below. It’s from a Zoom recording of the event, so the visuals reflect the PowerPoint presentation that was onscreen throughout the event.
Here is the ballot language as it was sent to the state for inclusion on the ballot.
Gilpin County Ballot Issue 1A: SHALL GILPIN COUNTY TAXES BE INCREASED BY APPROXIMATELY $1,308,450.00 BASED ON A 2.570 FIXED MILL LEVY DEDICATED SOLELY TO FUNDING THE COUNTY’S PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT FOR COLLECTION IN 2024 (WHICH IS ESTIMATED TO AMOUNT TO APPROXIMATELY $17.39 PER YEAR FOR EACH $100,000.00 OF ACTUAL RESIDENTIAL VALUE), AND BY SUCH ADDITIONAL TAX REVENUE AMOUNTS ANNUALLY THEREAFTER, IF ANY, FROM INCREASED TAXES GENERATED BY THE 2.570 FIXED MILL LEVY; AND ANNUALLY HEREAFTER BY AN ADDITIONAL PERCENTAGE EQUAL TO INFLATION PLUS ANNUAL LOCAL GROWTH AS DEFINED IN ART. X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION; ALL FOR THE PURPOSES OF RESTORING AND MAINTAINING THE PARKS AND RECREATION DEPARTMENT’S SERVICES AND FACILITIES, WHICH MAY INCLUDE WITHOUT LIMITATION:
PROMOTING SOCIAL, EMOTIONAL, AND PHYSICAL HEALTH WITH EXISTING AND NEW PROGRAMS FOR ALL AGES AND ABILITIES;
REPAIRING, MAINTAINING, AND UPDATING THE POOLS, EQUIPMENT, SUPPLIES, FURNITURE, AND AMENITIES; ASSISTING IN FUNDING CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS AT THE COMMUNITY CENTER, FAIRGROUNDS, TRAIL, AND PETE GONES MEMORIAL PARK;
LICENSED SCHOOL-AGED CHILDCARE, TEEN PROGRAMS, AND SENIOR SERVICES; AND USING THE COMMUNITY CENTER AS COMMUNITY HUB AND MEETING SPACE, OPEN TO EVERYONE FOR EVENTS, THE GILPIN COUNTY FAIR, RENTALS, FUNDRAISERS, EMERGENCIES, AND AS AN EVACUATION SHELTER;
AND SHALL GILPIN COUNTY BE ENTITLED TO COLLECT, RETAIN, AND SPEND THOSE REVENUES IN ADDITION TO ANY OTHER TAXES, FEES, OR OTHER REVENUES OF GILPIN COUNTY AS A VOTER APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE AND EXCEPTION TO ANY SPENDING OR REVENUE RESTRICTIONS OR OTHER LIMITS CONTAINED IN ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION, THE 5.5% PROPERTY TAX REVENUE LIMITATION OF C.R.S. §29-1-301, OR ANY OTHER LAW; AND SHALL ALL OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS HEREIN BE PERPETUAL IN DURATION?
_ YES/FOR _ NO/AGAINST
The language above describes a new ballot measure (as required by law) it is proposed to replace the sunsetting mill levy. It keeps the same 2.570 rate as the past mill levy. If passed, it could generate up to approximately $1,308,450.00 in 2024 for Parks & Recreation and the Community Center, for example. (The exact amount each year will depend on assessed property values.) County officials have stated that it will provide a stable funding base for the Parks & Recreation Department and keep its programs running well into the future.
If the measure fails, the county informed us it is developing an alternate budget plan for the Department. We have been told it will be published in October, prior to the vote.
Here is an excerpt from the Town Hall showing the current budget and operations of the Parks & Recreation Department.
Note: As we have been told by the Assessor, while the 2.57 mill levy remains the same, we are all aware that property values are up. That means the amount paid for all general property taxes will change. Everybody knows this, we just don’t know how much the amount will be until after the November election. We cover this issue in the answer to the first question below.
It also means that the amounts paid to fund this mill levy could rise. This is because property values have risen. (They could also go down, depending on what happens with Prop. HH.) See the grid below under the question “Q. How much will it cost me?” for more information on how much the mill levy will cost a residential taxpayer. That does not mean this is a new tax, as some are claiming. It’s the same mill levy number (2.570).
After the questions, we’ve listed more information about the Parks & Recreation Department for those not familiar with it. If you have questions about what’s here, please feel free to contact us at the “CONTACT” link at the bottom of this page.
The Questions We Get (and Answers)
Q. We’ve all received our notice of valuation from the County. That means our taxes will go up!
A. Yes, all property owners received those. And, there is—understandably—a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt over the issue. However, taxes may not go up as much as people are fearing. The Assessor’s office is working to prepare scenarios for 2024 property taxes, depending on various factors that are still undecided (like Prop HH). For discussion purposes, we use 2024 projected figures for residential property taxes throughout this page.
As one example of the factors at play, the final property tax assessment cannot be decided until after the November election. That’s because Proposition HH is on the ballot and final property tax assessments will depend on the outcome of that vote. Also, many property owners have submitted property tax protests, which are in the process of being evaluated by the Assessor’s office.
This also means County revenue for 2024 and going forward after 2024 is uncertain due to State Proposition HH. If passed by all the voters in the state in November it will reduce the tax property owners pay (based on recently increased property valuations). This reduces county revenue over the next ten years. It may also reduce TABOR refund dollars to taxpayers.
Q. Is the proposed mill levy an additional tax?
A.NO. It is not an additional tax. This new mill levy is proposed to replace the old, sunsetting mill levy that goes away at the end of 2023.
Q. How much will it cost me?
A. For residential property owners, the approximate predicted cost of the mill levy for 2024 (for example) is $17.39 per year per $100,000 of property value. So, if your property value is $500,000, your tax for the Parks & Recreation Mill Levy will be around $86.95 in 2024.
(Please note that all these figures are approximate values. The actual tax for Parks & Recreation each year will depend on the listed value on your assessment notice. As we get further or updated information, we will update this table. This information is based on material provided by the County Assessor.)
Predicted Sample 2024 Tax Amounts for Parks & Recreation Mill Levy
Approximate 2024 Tax for Parks & Recreation
$17.39 (or ~$1.45/month)
$34 .78 (or ~$2.89/month)
$52.17 (or ~$4.35/month)
$69.56 (or ~$5.80/month)
$86.94 (or ~$7.24/month)
$104.34 (or ~$8.70/month)
This chart shows approximately what a taxpayer will pay in 2024 for Parks & Recreation under the proposed mill levy at 2.570 mills. To calculate an approximate tax estimate for your situation, multiply $17.39 per year per $100,000.00 of property value (from the notice you got from the County Assessor) for your residential property.
Here’s a real-world example. One of our group’s members is paying $108.99 in 2023 for the Parks & Recreation Mill levy on a residential property. (Based on previous value.) That works out to $9.08 per month, which goes directly to the P&R department.
For 2024 tax purposes, that same member’s property is now assessed higher. Based on their new value, they will pay approximately $154.42 for the mill levy, an increase of $45.43 for next year. This makes their new 2024 “bill” for P&R about $12.86 per month. This is $3.78 more per month over 2023.
For reference, $12.86 per month for this resident is about the cost of three trips to Starbucks per month to get a plain coffee Americano, plus a reasonable tip. (Or, if you’re a Powerball player, it’s four quick picks per month with the multiplier, with some change left over.)
The chart above gives you a way to estimate what your share of the P&R mill levy will cost you next year. Future years will depend on those values, too. If they go up or down, the mill levy tax you pay will go up or down.
Q. Do business property owners pay this tax?
A. Every property owner pays into the mill levy. In 2024, for example, it will raise approximately $1,308,450.00 to provide a stable base of funding for the Parks & Recreation Department. It will continue to support the P&R department directly in the future. That means that all property owners are banding together to raise $1,308,450.00 for P&R. Here’s how the 2024 amount breaks down for the different categories of property owners:
Businesses in Gilpin County (including casinos). These pay approximately 61%** of the total mill levy funding. In 2024, that will amount to about $798,155.00. This business support of the Parks & Recreation Department through the mill levy is an important, valuable, and welcome contribution to the mental, physical, and social health of all Gilpinites of all ages plus many of our first responders.
Residential property owners. They pay approximately 22%** of the total mill levy cost based on their property assessments. In 2024, that will amount to about $287,859.00 (across all residential properties).
Vacant land and other property owners (including agricultural, oil/gas, industrial, etc.) not covered above. These pay about 17%** of the total mill levy. In 2024, this will be approximately $222,437.00.
**NOTE: These percentages are based on 2024 actual taxation projections.
Q. Why isn’t the casino gaming tax paying for the Parks & Recreation Department? Didn’t it use to?
A. The county’s annual gaming revenue allotment, which is only paid once per year in September, has NEVER paid directly for the Parks & Recreation Department. It is deposited into the county general fund by law. It combines with all other general fund revenues and gets allocated as needed.
To give you an idea of how much the gaming revenue allotment covers, the amount Gilpin receives is roughly equivalent to the cost of running the Sheriff’s Department.
If the 2.570 mill levy passes, casinos (and other businesses) will pay their share of it through their business property tax, as noted above. So, in a very real sense, they will be paying along with the rest of us (as they have been) to help keep the Community Center and its offerings available for all of us.
NOTE: Gaming revenue to the county is a percentage of casino income and fees set by the State of Colorado.
Q. The county just got a big gambling check? Why can’t that money pay for the P&R?
The mill levy is proposed as a stable, dependable method of funding Parks & Recreation from year to year over the long term. That means the mill levy funding will ensure it stays open for normal operations and can still offer all the events and activities we are used to getting.
Gaming funds are not consistent. That’s because they can and do vary from year to year. For that reason, they are not a stable, dependable source of income to support Parks & Recreation programs in the long term, since funds are needed for other county expenses that are required by state statutes. (See the question below about the county budget.)
While this second year ever of revenue windfall is good, it won’t always be there, whereas the Parks & Recreation needs stability in future funding to ensure programming and staff. That’s why officials feel that a mill levy is a better investment of our tax dollars in the long term. It buffers the department and all its activities from the uncertainties of variable gaming funding.
County officials met on September 12th, 2023, to review the recommended distribution for the extra gaming money received this year. The county was planning on receiving $12,700,000.00 from gaming funds. In fact, it received more than that, in the amount of $3,402,591.45.
Based on the September 12 meeting, that money is proposed to be spent as follows:
1) 8% to build up the county’s emergency reserve funds for wildfire or other community disaster; 2) increase staff compensation and levels across crucial departments (like Road & Bridge); 3) address capital improvements spending on specific projects (including deferred maintenance on county facilities); 4) implement a broadband effort for Gilpin County.
They can request that the county spend gaming money in a very short-term effort to shore up Parks & Recreation for only one year.
Or they can vote in the mill levy and let the county direct the surplus funds as suggested above to help county employees with better pay (which helps us retain crucial employees in such departments as Road & Bridge), ensure a proper emergency fund, move toward an improved countywide broadband program, and address some of the capital improvement needs for our facilities.
Q. We’ve been told that money collected for the P&R Mill Levy can just be funneled into the General Fund. Is that true?
No. This is not true. Any monies collected for a specific purpose, such as this mill levy for P&R, must be spent on that purpose. They cannot be diverted for other uses.
Q. What does the County budget cover?
A. County general fund revenue comes from gaming taxes, property taxes, fees, and grants, which vary each year. Gilpin does not have a sales tax.
The County has to pay for federal and state-mandated services first. Then, it pays for everything else as it can. Since P&R is not mandated, it can fall far down the list.
It’s worth noting that Gilpin County property taxes are much lower than many other counties in the state. In fact, they are among the lowest in the state.
Q. Why can’t the General Fund pay for Parks & Recreation?
A. Along with fees and grants, it did until the pandemic struck. Then, the P&R department was shut down completely as budgets shrank catastrophically and non-essential services and facilities were closed to keep people safe. In 2020, voters approved the current mill levy to reopen the Parks & Recreation Department and the Community Center. It was always understood to sunset at the end of 2023.
However, even before the pandemic, the county was challenged in budgeting for basic services, including costs for P&R. For many years, revenue sources into the general fund did not keep up with the cost of living. As a result, for example, the county lost many high-quality employees to other municipalities with better pay. In addition, the county continues to face the costs of deferred maintenance and upgrades to buildings. The County also faces the same equipment shortages and difficulties in getting professionals to come to do work up here as many of the rest of us do when we need electricians or plumbers (for example). Despite these challenges, the Commissioners are working with the county manager and department directors each day to identify and fund the most critical infrastructure needs.
The current Board of County Commissioners has worked diligently to pay off all debts the county had incurred. They are working on other initiatives to perform long-delayed maintenance to our buildings, including the Center. They’re also building up a good healthy reserve in case of emergencies (wildfire, etc.) The work is far from done, but it’s a good start on fiscal prudency.
However, at the present time, there is very little to no leeway in the county’s general budget to cover the total P&R budget. The county budget general fund currently covers facility maintenance, capital improvements, road maintenance and rebuilding, public safety, human services, courthouse services, transfer station, and higher costs for utilities, staff, equipment, etc. It does all this with property taxes that are among the lowest in the state.
Q. Well, what happened to the over $4 million in excess gaming tax revenue that the county had last year??
A. Gilpin County had a surplus revenue from gaming for 2022 in the amount of $4,751,005.00. The funds were proposed to be spent as follows:
$1,220,080, plus $34,920 was placed in an emergency reserve fund;
$784,556 was used to pay off all debt;
$2,711,449 was allocated to various needs in the 2022 and 2023 budgets. Those budget allocations included $1,694,929 for capital projects, $659,520 for staffing on-call pay, cost-of-living increase, and other staffing needs; $187,000 for programs including fire mitigation, cyber security, and record digitization; and $170,000 for facility assessment and staffing needs assessment. See County resolution number 22-43 in the 2023 county budget.
Q. Why have the mill levy?
A. To offer consistent, quality staff and programs on a reliably funded future basis, the requested mill levy will provide a stable funding base so that it can provide the services and events it was created to do.
With a dedicated mill levy, the department’s budget is not subject to the ups and downs of gambling revenues for the general fund, shortfalls in tax revenues, or county decisions to fund other services and needs that are higher priority.
Plus, as more Gilpinites now use the Center and its facilities, and programs are growing, the Center’s budget has grown to accommodate all those needs. It’s a popular place!
Q. What happens if voters do not approve the mill levy?
A. It’s not a question of simply slipping the department back under the general fund. There’s not enough room in the budget to do that. If the mill levy is not approved, there will very likely be reduced hours and programs since the cost to operate has increased.
(As background, most Colorado parks and recreation agencies are funded through dedicated property taxes such as a mill levy or through a special district or municipal government. Gilpin was an outlier in supporting it through the general fund.)
Gilpin County Commissioners will need to consider Parks & Recreation funding each year along with other needs and priorities in the county if the department goes back into the General Fund. As a result, the department will likely be allocated less funding, which would lead to cuts in services, etc.
At the present time, if the measure does not pass, then property owners won’t have to pay some money for Parks & Recreation. For many, it will be a few dollars a month. (see the chart above)
As for the county budget, the Commissioners and other officials are aware that they will need to plan for some kind of funding for the department, depending on the overall county budget. The amount is not known yet. They have asked ALL department heads to submit several budget scenarios that they can use going forward. The worst-case scenario is that the mill levy doesn’t pass and there’s not enough money in the General Fund to fund Parks & Recreation at its current level. That will require substantial cuts to the P&R budget.
Q. Specifically, what cuts will happen if the Parks & Recreation mill levy doesn’t pass?
A. If the mill levy does not pass, budget constraints will very likely force the closure of the most expensive parts of Parks & Recreation’s offerings. Those are the pools and the Fair. Utilities are also a huge part of the P&R budget and those cannot be cut out unless the whole building is completely shut down.
Cuts could affect some very popular services, such as child care, teen programs, senior programs, and others that Gilpinites depend on and use.
Lack of funding could mean a cutback of service hours and highly trained staff. Presently, there are more than 30 local Gilpin employees in the department, including teens in their first jobs or in critical positions (such as lifeguards). Those in-county jobs could be jeopardized.
In addition, classes offered by contract instructors could be affected. Most of those instructors are local Gilpinites who depend on the classes they teach for income. In addition, cuts could remove a venue for small local businesses that exhibit and sell their goods at such events as the Fair and Winter Arts Festival.
In the long run, it will mean the cancellation of some programs and the loss of grants and grant renewals that support others. The Parks & Recreation staff worked very hard to get substantial grants to cover child care for working parents in Gilpin, as well as the teen program (for example). Those will continue for the original periods of their grants, but, as mentioned above, their renewal could be in jeopardy. The failure of the measure could also affect the department’s participation in Medicare-related insurance programs for seniors (see below) if hours and offerings are cut. There’s a lot at stake for many Gilpin families.
These projections are all very real scenarios that will be on the table. They are based on conversations with the P&R Director (who is also an experienced financial analyst) as well as others in the County government and also based on alternative plans they have to make if the measure fails.
Q. We hear and see that the Community Center is in need of repairs. Who is going to pay for those?
A. There’s really good news on that front. The county started in 2022 to develop a Capital Improvement Plan and a framework is now in place for capital improvements to the Center (as well as other county buildings) over the next several years. That money will come from the General Fund.
For example, the Commissioners JUST approved (in mid-July 2023) over $1.2 million in 2023-2024 for community center capital improvements (for roof, floors, locker room fixups, and other repairs). That’s for a start. We know that they are looking at an HVAC replacement, as well as some other repairs to the infrastructure of the building.
Q. I don’t use the Rec Center to exercise, why should I pay for it?
A. The Parks & Recreation Department is more than a rec center. If you’ve gone to the Gilpin County Fair, the Winter Arts Festival, visited the Community Garden or trail, attended meetings at the Center, enjoyed the Senior Lunch program, have children in after-school programs or the child care programs, or have family or friends who use them, if your kids/grandkids or neighbor kids used the playground or ballfields, if your family member (including a local teen) works there, or you’ve been to any of a number of other events there, you’ve used the facilities that we’ve all paid for with our tax dollars.
More than half (at least 55%) of Gilpinites DO use the Center and its facilities regularly. Like the Library, the Center Campus is central to many people’s lives in this county.
Why We Chose to Do Voter Education on This Issue
We have always been advocates for the Parks & Recreation Department and Community Center as a valuable part of Gilpin County’s offerings. Our membership—which comprises members from across the county and across political parties—has received many questions about this proposed mill levy. There has been a great deal of discussion in the county about this issue both pro and con, with some amount of inaccurate or outdated information being communicated.
As a public service, we decided to ask for information from county officials who are best positioned to know the details of the budget and other facts about the County’s funding. The FAQ above is a result of those discussions with them and with other knowledgeable people in the county.
What we learned in our conversations about this complex issue so far is reflected in this Q&A page in what we hope is plain, clear language so that all county residents have the opportunity to make their informed choices—PRO or CON—at the polls.
Late in 2022, the Gilpin County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) discussed finding a way to extend the current mill levy for Parks & Recreation (P&R) at a work session. At the time, the Board of County Commissioners (comprising Sandy Hollingsworth, Linda Isenhart, and Web Sill) agreed unanimously that some kind of continuing mill levy was necessary to provide a stable future funding base for the Parks & Recreation Department.
The BOCC then left the final decision about the amount and timing until 2023, when more information about our future County budget, limited gaming revenues, and tax assessments would be available.
In spring 2023, the current Board of County Commissioners again discussed extending the current mill levy of 2.57 and moved it forward. Since the old mill levy sunsets at the end of 2023, the current ballot language describes a mill levy that will begin in 2024 at the same 2.57 rate. It was formally voted on in late August to refer the matter to the voters. That mill levy is on the ballot for the November 2023 election as Issue IA.
What Parks & Recreation Provides
Gilpin County Parks & Recreation supports physical, social, and mental health for you and your Gilpin neighbors. Here’s a list of the many, many services and events it offers:
Commissioner/Representative/Senator/Governor Meet and Greet events
Candidate and political party meetups
CSU Extension and master gardening classes
Fair, 4H meetings, and gymkhanas
Winter Arts Festival
First Responder Event
Resources, speakers, meetings
Family Activities and Programs
Daddy-daughter Dance and Dive
Mom-Son Nerf Game Parties
Birthday parties and other celebrations
Programs for Seniors
Lunch and social activities (games, etc.)
Silver & Fit
And much more…
These activities, services, and events are available to every Gilpin neighbor for free or for modest user or member fees. And, more than half of Gilpinites use the Center for activities, meetings, and other events (as you can see in the listing above). In 2022, the facilities logged more than 35,000 individual visits. In 2023, usage in all categories and activities is growing.
The Center is also used by visitors to the County (who pay full price to get in), as well as people from Nederland and other nearby areas. It is, as the late Commissioner Sill often said, a “crown jewel” in the county. It joins our library in that special regard and is there for everybody. Over the past few years, the P&R staff has been slowly rebuilt and worked hard to bring new programs for a wide variety of visitors.
Interestingly, some of the events the Community Center hosts, such as the Fair and Winter Arts Festival, are generating welcome amounts of income for businesses that exhibit at these events, including a number of small businesses. This adds to the department’s “public-facing” character, making it a useful economic engine for small businesses in the county.
What’s the Friends Group’s Role?
As a group that supports the Parks & Recreation Department through research and community feedback, sustainable funding of specific projects through grants and donations, and assistance to our Gilpin neighbors who need access, we’ve worked with the staff to implement many programs. We are not employees of the County although our group has a memorandum of understanding with the County. As part of our charter, we play a support role for the Community Center, its staff, and the community at large.
Our members are Gilpinites interested in keeping the P&R department and Community Center accessible for all. We’ve contributed time and money for activities, equipment, and events. For example, we helped pay for a bouncy obstacle course for kids to use indoors. We also funded a Water Safety course for kids for the past two years and are hoping to expand that program in 2024. We’ve supported the Winter Arts Festival, the Fair, and the Spooky Stroll, as well as this year’s Farmer’s Markets at the Community Center.
We offer a Heart of the Community Fund to help people who can’t afford the Center get access to it. Through that, we’ve funded a number of Gilpinites with those needs. We’ve worked with the department to help bring senior insurance program coverage for folks in the county who qualified for Silver Sneakers, RenewActive, and Silver&Fit programs (through Medicare). This county has a large population of seniors and many benefit from the offerings that Parks & Recreation provides – along with the Volunteers of America (for senior lunches).
All of the activities and events offered through Parks & Recreation to create a true Community Center are incredibly valuable. They provide a very generous return on our tax-dollar investment into this public-facing aspect of Gilpin County. Many newcomers to Gilpin mention how the Community center is emphasized as part of the county’s amenities in real estate listings. Others are thrilled to find it up here and amazed at its offerings. As some have put it, “We get a great bang for our tax buck” with the Parks & Recreation Department.
We hope this discussion helps our neighbors and friends in the County see the various roles that Parks & Recreation and the Community Center play in our community life. There’s a reason our group (which comprises people from all political viewpoints and parts of Gilpin County) supports it.
We are grateful to the county officials and others familiar with the budget and center who have taken the time to discuss and clarify the mill levy and budget issues with us. And, we thank you for reading this.