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South Suburban seeks ongoing support from voters

Parks and rec district asks to indefinitely extend mill levies


People who use South Suburban Parks and Recreation District's recreation centers, trails and parks overwhelmingly approve of the district's offerings, according to surveys conducted earlier this year. They'll soon get a chance to put their money where their mouths are.

South Suburban has two issues on the November ballot for voters in the district, which includes Littleton, Bow Mar, Columbine Valley, Lone Tree, Sheridan, much of Centennial and some unincorporated areas of Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties.

The district is asking voters to approve two ballot issues, 4B and 4C, which in essence will allow them to keep collecting revenue as they have been.

South Suburban is largely funded by property tax revenue, collected through two mill levies, approved in 2010 and 2014. Residents of the district pay 1.163 mills toward the district's existing debt, meaning the owner of a $300,000 home pays about $15.50 a month to maintain and improve the district's four recreation centers, four outdoor pools, four golf courses, nearly 100 miles of trails, more than 100 parks and 2,500 acres of open space.

Ballot Issue 4B, if approved, would indefinitely extend the district's two property tax mill levies. Ballot Issue 4C, if approved, would allow the district to borrow more money to increase its debt to $46.86 million, with a repayment cost of up to $61.66 million.

“We're on schedule to pay off our existing debt by 2018,” South Suburban Executive Director Rob Hanna said. “We go out and issue more debt for the future. We pay that off with existing taxes. The only other option would be to save up beforehand. It's similar to borrowing for a house. Financially it's a strong position to be in.”

The debt would go toward meeting a variety of needs, according to a news release, including repairing and improving existing parks, recreation facilities and playgrounds, replacing outdated mechanical equipment with new energy saving systems, replacing inefficient irrigation systems and maintaining natural areas and open space.

The district compiled its first-ever master plan earlier this year, which shed light on what the public wants from South Suburban, Hanna said.

“Citizens expect us to have a sustainable district,” Hanna said. “That means environmentally sustainable, but also financially. Long-term sustainability meant asking the voters to essentially extend the mill levies for the foreseeable future. It's hard to plan for the future when you're uncertain where revenue will come from.”

Hanna said the district stands to lose over a third of its funding if the mill levies expire as scheduled in 2025.

The master plan also highlighted challenges faced by South Suburban, including aging infrastructure. The Great Recession hindered South Suburban's ability to address long-term maintenance needs, Brett Collins, the district's director of planning and development, said in July.

A survey of South Suburban's facilities cited in the master plan found that while most are in at least fair condition, several fell short. “Poor” ratings were given to the Family Sports Dome, Harlow Park Outdoor Pool, Littleton Golf and Tennis Center, Lone Tree Golf Clubhouse and Hotel, Sheridan Recreation Center and an administration building and service center.

“If these ballot issues aren't passed, we won't be able to do many projects at all,” Hanna said. “I think as long as communication gets out there that this isn't a tax increase, the community will be supportive. It appears the community is satisfied with us and is confident we're using tax money wisely. What we say we'll do, we go out and do.”


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