Sales and Use Tax Reauthorization
Countywide open space investments are funded by a .25 of a cent sales tax initially approved by voters in 2003, renewed in 2011, and permanently reauthorized in 2021. More than $260 million has been invested back into our community since the beginning of the program.
Prior to the 2021 election, with the tax set to expire in 2023, Arapahoe County undertook a process to assess when to reauthorize the tax and what—if any—changes should be made to the program.
As part of our open spaces master plan update, we've received public input and feedback on the value of our open space investments, the desire to maintain these assets for future generations, and identified future, unfunded community needs.
The County's Open Space & Trails Advisory Board—a resident-appointed oversight board for the sales tax program—was actively involved in this process. They also participated in the County's reauthorization committee, which met for six months in 2021 and reviewed potential options and additional data regarding the sales tax and reauthorization timeline. The committee made a few recommendations for consideration of an extension—based on public input and feedback from our municipal partners—including:
- No changes to the municipal shareback formula. We know how critical these funds are to our communities in supporting local park and open space operations.
- No changes to the grant program formula or eligibility. Once again, we know how critical these investments are to your park and open space programs.
- Making the tax permanent. The committee agreed we need to make sure the County and our partners have a dedicated funding source to maintain, improve and add to these special places. Polling also showed that making the tax permanent wouldn’t negatively affect the outcome of the vote for the tax.
- Increase funding allocations at the county and city level to maintaining existing assets. The committee heard from residents that we need to maintain what we currently have, and less than 4% funding for maintenance is just not enough.
- Refer a measure to the 2021 November ballot. The final recommendation by the committee is to refer a measure to the 2021 November ballot to steward, maintain and improve our Open Spaces network.
The County does ongoing outreach and education to gain additional information, which helped to inform the Board's decision-making process regarding a referred measure. On August 10, 2021, the Board referred Resolution #21-263 to the November 2 election. Ballot Issue 1A passed with more than 76% of the vote.