AURORA | The drive to encourage voters to support a mill levy tax extension ballot question officially kicked off Aug. 13 with a $2,500 donation by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce to support the campaign.
About 25 elected officials, economic development representatives and business owners gathered at a press conference at the Aurora Chamber of Commerce offices to back referendum 2B.
The ballot question would ask voters to extend a mill levy set to expire beginning in 2013, which would generate about $5.8 million per year for city officials to use on 21 projects including road widening, median improvements, new turn lanes, and new sidewalks and bike paths. Residents have been paying property taxes of just under 2 mills since 1998 and 2000. The tax extension would mean that a typical homeowner of a $200,000 home would continue to pay about $32 per year on the 2 mills of property tax, or about $2.70 per month.
“This ballot issue is in my opinion extremely important to the future of the city,” said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan at the press conference attended by other lawmakers including Aurora City Councilmen Bob LeGare and Bob Broom, and former mayors Ed and Paul Tauer.
Hogan said the infrastructure improvements would provide better car, pedestrian and bicycle access to the Anschutz Medical Campus and Buckley Air Force Base, and to the southeast part of the city.
“We have to make it easier to get around, we have to make it easier to connect, whether that’s through an automobile or a bicycle or on foot,” he said.
He said this is a good time for voters to approve the tax extension because construction costs and interest rates are low. “This is a point in the economy where we know construction firms are hungry for work,” he said.
The 21 projects, which are detailed at length on the website auroramoves.org, include: improvements to East Colfax Avenue, Montview Boulevard, and Chambers Road, for better pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle access to the Anschutz Medical Campus, constructing a new intersection at E-470 and Quincy Road, and a 900-space parking structure at the Iliff FasTracks light rail station. The total price tag of the 21 projects amounts to about $71.3 million.
It was originally Aurora City Councilman Bob LeGare’s idea to use potential revenues from the mill levy tax extension on transportation improvements. The city has a transportation needs list that amounts to about $430 million, he said.
Tom Tobiassen, Regional Transportation District board member whose district includes Aurora, said he is supporting the ballot question mainly because of the efforts to construct bicycle and pedestrian walkways around the former Fitzsimons Army Base.
About $500,000 of the revenues the city would generate from the tax extension would go toward bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Tobiassen, who is also president and founder of Bicycle Aurora, said employees at the Anschutz Medical Campus want to be able to ride their bikes to work.
“Bicycling is a huge transportation element for the student population, and there’s bicycles out there, all over the place now,” Tobiassen said.
Other notables who attended the event included Alfonso Nunez, owner of La Cueva Mexican restaurant on East Colfax Avenue, Wendy Mitchell, president of the Aurora Economic Development Council, and Carol Reed, chief executive officer of the Aurora Association of Realtors.
Kevin Hougen, president of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, said he’s particularly excited about seeing the widening of Sixth Avenue to E-470, so people can easily access the Aurora Public Schools’ Vista PEAK P-20 campus. “It really opens up just a really good opportunity for that academic development piece,” he said.
He said the city of 335,000 people continues to grow bigger on an annual basis, and infrastructure has to keep pace with the growth.
“It’s really important for mobility, for the residents not only to get to places to shop but really to get where they work,” Hougen said.
Revenues from the 2000 mill levy increase were used to help pay for several projects like the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Tallyn’s Reach Library, municipal court remodeling, Sand Creek Park, Olympic Park Expansion, and additions and expansions to fire stations. Revenues from the 1998 mill levy increase were used to pay for the Alameda Avenue and Interstate 225 interchange.