Tax district would raise clean-energy funds

Special panel pushes ballot issue for proposal in Garfield County

An intergovernmental advisory board is asking the Garfield County Commission to explore creation of a special district that, with voter approval, would provide financing for residential and commercial clean-energy projects.

Under the concept endorsed this past week by the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative board, the district would lend money to property owners for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

However, property owners who don’t borrow would not bear any tax burden. Loans would be repaid through a special assessment on the property tax bills of participants, payable over as many as 20 years. If the property is sold, the tax lien would stay with the property.

One advantage of this concept is it would encourage participation by senior citizens and others who don’t anticipate owning their properties long enough to recoup investments in projects such as solar panels.

The concept originated in Berkeley, Calif., in 2007. The following year, the Colorado Legislature passed a law that allows local governments to create clean-energy improvement districts and seek voter approval to issue bonds for financing.

Boulder County voters approved such a proposal last year with 64 percent support.

The board now pushing for a Garfield County ballot measure includes representatives from the county, its six municipalities, the Garfield County Public Library District and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. The board advises the county on implementation of a $1.6 million New Energy Communities Initiative grant from Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration.

The board voted unanimously to ask county commissioners to explore issues such as the county’s bonding capacity, and to proceed with a ballot measure if no obstacles are found.

The ballot question could be structured so it is decided on a countywide basis, or voters in each jurisdiction could determine whether property owners would have access to the financing.

The board is hoping the measure can go on this fall’s ballot. Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt told the board Wednesday there is a good argument for moving forward as quickly as possible because clean-energy projects would stimulate job creation.

Boulder County voters authorized making $40 million available for projects there.

Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig said the idea has merit because it would deal with an issue confronted by his town board. The town has a program that encourages clean-energy measures for new structures but fails to deal with existing ones.

“This is exactly the answer to that concern,” Hassig said.


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