A tax proposal by the Colorado River District is headed to an overwhelming victory, based on preliminary results.

As of about 8 p.m. the district’s proposal to increase its property tax rate to 0.5 mills was being approved by a 163,384-61,689 vote, or about 73% in favor and 27% opposed.

District General Manager Andy Mueller expressed excitement over how many voters backed the measure.

“I’ve never seen results like this on a tax increase in western Colorado,” he said.

He was amazed to see the level of support, including Mesa and Montrose counties.

“In western Colorado, one issue people can agree on is the importance of water,” Mueller said.

The river district measure will increase its property tax rate to 0.5 mills, about double its current amount. It is projected to increase the district’s annual revenue by nearly $5 million and cost an additional $1.90 per $100,000 in residential property value, and $7.70 per $100,000 in assessed valuation for business property.

The district covers 15 counties and works to conserve, protect and develop water in the Colorado River Basin in western Colorado. It is seeking to reverse financial impacts from declining energy industry revenues and the effects of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) and Gallagher state constitutional amendments.

The district plans to use only 14% of the new revenues to address those impacts, and wants to use most of the money to partner with others on projects focused on agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, conservation and efficiency.

“We expect to be launching our partnership projects very quickly and right out of the blocks,” Mueller said. “We’re really excited about it and excited to get to work for the people of western Colorado.”

The tax proposal comes at a time when long-term drought and population growth are putting more stress on water supplies in the Colorado River Basin.

“Water is important to every single aspect of our lives in western Colorado and I think our voters understand that and the river district, we have a big job ahead of us to protect that resource,” Mueller said.

The measure drew support from agricultural trade associations; conservation groups; chambers of commerce in Grand Junction, Fruita and elsewhere; and other organizations that locally include the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, Club 20 and the Ute Water Conservancy District.

Some county commissions in the river district endorsed the measure. Mesa County’s didn’t take a position on the measure, although commissioners Scott McInnis and John Justman said they personally supported it.

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