Will the Gilpin Rec Center ever open again?

Voters could determine via a property mil levy tax increase

By Jaclyn Schrock

When Gilpin County Commissioners were advised that their $11.6 million annual September tax payment from the gaming industry would be only $6 million because of the federal lockdown attempting to thwart the spread of the COVID-19 virus, budget adjustments were quickly recommended. This 43% reduction of revenue made a significant impact on Gilpin County.

Gilpin County, as all Colorado Counties, are required to provide statutory services, Sheriff’s Office, transportation departments, road maintenance, voting access, governmental systems to manage the county with taxes and records, and other essential services.

Gilpin County was hit with a larger shortfall of tax revenue that other US counties, because so much of our county revenue is supported by hospitality and gaming industry. Other counties with gaming industry revenue also have other industries that contribute to their revenue.

Gilpin County primarily depends on property taxes to supplement the budget. Gilpin has hospitality industries and tourism which contributes close to half of the tax base. Three months of closed hospitality services during the peak season left us seriously short of funds. Gilpin has no other manufacturing industry that contributes a significant portion of the budgeted tax funds.

By May 2020, Gilpin County Commissioners decided to fund only the statutory requirements of the county. They made a hard decision to restructure county staff positions, close the Gilpin Community Center, and reduce the Sheriff’s Office budget.

By July 2, 2020 a total of seventy-nine Gilpin County positions, including furloughed Community Center employees, reduced the county workforce. Now, these positions have been laid off, according to Gabrielle Chisholm, formerly the assistant director of Gilpin County Parks and Recreation. Ms. Chisholm is working closely with community relations and those striving to support Gilpin County in recovering through this loss.

Citizens formed committees of Rec Center users who hoped to be part of the solutions to the loss of usage of our community center and fairgrounds. Progress reports on their activities will follow.

The Sheriff’s Office found a grant opportunity to supplement the $1million cut from their budget. They were told they were awarded $780,000 in grant funds, but unfortunately it was only about half of that amount.

Sadly, in the last Gilpin County Commissioners meeting, more bad news revealed that applications for grants and government support for the county had failed. Two attempts were completely denied. While the grant to the Sheriff’s Office which had been awarded, was changed from providing almost three-quarters of the budget to about a third instead.

Gilpin Community Center hopes to reopen in early 2021

Of the seven special interest groups seeking restoration of the Gilpin Community Center, all have community input to find solutions to the closure.

Thursday August 27, the Leadership Team of the special interest groups met to present information to the Board of Gilpin County Commissioners. Realizing that no official bids have been presented, over $4 million is considered for critical needs to maintain an open Gilpin community recreation center.

Seeking other funding sources continues for the GCC along with a voter approved mil levy. The amount Gilpin property taxes would increase to fund the community center can be calculated by the assessed value of a property. A website is being established with easy calculators which give your assessed value and how much per year your property taxes could be changed. Possibly only the Sheriff’s and Gilpin County mill levy may be calculated on the county designed web site.

September 4, 2020, the GCC Recovery Leadership Team Meeting was facilitated on Zoom by Jim Reid. The working session was attended by team leaders Carolyn Collins Petersen, Jim Read, Ginger Baer, Steve Briggs, Norma Jones, Steve Schwettman, Sarah Swanson, Joline Logan, and Sandy Hollingsworth.

A review of recommendations for the Commissioners was made regarding a request to bring to voters a ballot for a mill levy. Other recommendations were considered. Establishing a Special District Board of Directors as a separates district from complete governing by the Commissioners is what Gilpin Library has done. This takes years to establish apparently, so has not begun for the Gilpin Community Center still operating through Gilpin Parks and Recreation Department of the County.

Friends of the Gilpin County Community Center

The Friends of the Gilpin County Community Center board to facilitate the reopening and operations of Gilpin’s community center has been formed. This board will seek the best opportunities for the Gilpin Rec Center to reopen by gathering community preferences, users of the center, employees, and information from other community centers.

Friends of the Gilpin County Community Center officers include: Chief Executive Carolyn Collins Petersen, Vice President Jim Reid, Treasurer Ginger Baers interim for September then Sarah Swanson long term.

The Leadership Team worked through steps to set up Friends of Gilpin County Community Center (FGCCC). With a September 11th target for completion, a few tasks were set as goals. They will continue to meet weekly on Fridays, after having individual special interest group meetings for input.

Sandy Hollingsworth helped clarify some public misconceptions about gaming revenue. Most goes to education and historic preservation, not Gilpin County. Any changes to the gaming revenue is done by the state, not Gilpin County. Gaming revenue is received by the county only once a year, not monthly.

Gilpin Commissioners would determine the amount and the wording for the ballot of a mill levy. Ms. Hollingsworth clarified that it is a state requirement of wording on the ballot read by voters. A ballot initiative must begin with the words, “Shall Gilpin County Taxes be increased…”

The required legal text of a ballot issue is often confusing to voters. The blue book that comes out from the state explaining the candidates and legal issues offers the pros and cons of an issue. These are normally more easily comprehended than simply reading the ballot.

Ballot Resolution #20-18

In a work session on September 8, the Gilpin County Commissioners completed the wording for the mill levy ballot resolution to be voted on by Gilpin County voters on November 3, 2020.

Proposed ballot wording requests an annual increase of $1,130, 800 for the operations of the Gilpin County Parks and Recreation Department. This is a 2.570 mil levy, approximately $18 annually per $100,000 in actual value of a property. This mill levy could give money exclusively to the Gilpin County Parks and Recreation Department in 2021 through 2023.

Voting “YES” would allow the County to reopen GCCC. A “NO” vote would not allow it to be reopened for all ages by the Gilpin County resources.

If you wish to have an opinion recognized in the blue voters’ guide to establish the pros and cons of a mill levy for the community center, please contact Gabrielle Chisholm regarding ballot resolution number 20-18. Deadline for submission of comments is needed by September 18th. A specific email address is to be established for this purpose soon.

The Friends of Gilpin County Community Center is the only source to communicate support for the community center reopening. County staff and officials are no longer able to support the process with other county duties a priority until after the election. They may only participate by encouraging voting one way or another as private citizens away from their workplace.

The Friends are working on a plan to seek voter support from our community to reopen the Gilpin Community Center.

There is also a very clear list of tasks the Friends could facilitate for reorganizing the recreation center. From employee recommendations, to hiring staff, researching what other community centers do that work well, and recognizing what the community wants in their center.

This 2020 county ballot will be full. There are mil levy requests for the Gilpin Library, the Sheriff’s Office, Gilpin Schools, and the Gilpin Community Center. More information on the other ballot issues can be found in this newspaper, past, current, and future – and on the www.weeklyregistercall.com website.

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