Englewood questions focus on police, schools, marijuana

Local ballot issues can be confusing and conflicting. I untangled Englewood's. From the Englewood Herald.

Englewood voters’ ballots this year will be dominated by conflicting marijuana-related measures. One effort seeks to permit the retail sale of marijuana; another seeks to prohibit it. Another pair of measures addresses taxing retail marijuana, in case retail sales are approved: One of those measures would allow the city to quickly increase taxes on marijuana; another would require marijuana tax increases to occur more slowly. The remaining ballot measures regard improvements to city and school district infrastructure: One bond issue, if approved, would increase property taxes to pay back a loan to build a new police station, and another would increase property taxes to replace Englewood’s aging elementary schools. Finally, a mill levy override would increase property taxes to add money to the school district’s operating fund. Here’s a detailed look at each issue: Ballot Question 301 If approved, Ballot Question 301 would prohibit commercial cultivation, manufacturing and sale of recreational marijuana. Medical marijuana would not be affected. Recreational marijuana sales are already banned in Englewood by action of the city council, but the existing ban could be overturned by future councils. Ballot Question 301 would prohibit recreational sales even if future city councils wanted to allow such sales. Such a ban could only be overturned by another popular vote. Ballot Question 301 is the result of a citizen initiative, spearheaded by Donna Macdonald and Peggy Bogaard-Lapp, the latter of whom lives on the same block as the yet-to-be-completed Trees medical marijuana dispensary in southwest Englewood, which was approved in 2014 despite opposition by neighbors. A similar petition by Macdonald and Bogaard-Lapp sought to prohibit medical marijuana sales in the city and shut down the four facilities approved by the city for sales or cultivation. That effort failed. Ballot Question 302 The result of another citizen initiative, Ballot Question 302 would allow recreational marijuana shops in Englewood, subject to regulation and licensing conditions set forth in the initiative petition. If this ballot question becomes law, until 2019 the city could only approve applications for recreational sales at the medical marijuana facilities the city has already approved. After that, the city could approve recreational marijuana shops in other locations, provided they conformed with zoning regulations. The measure would allow hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., which could not be shortened by the city council. The measure was brought forth by Tim Brown, who says he will operate the as-yet-unfinished Trees dispensary in southwest Englewood, and Bruce Carter, owner of the Nature's Kiss dispensary at Broadway and Quincy Avenue. Both listed their addresses on the petition as rental mailboxes at the UPS Store on Hampden Avenue. A website touting the measure, responsibleenglewood.org, is registered through Domains By Proxy, which obscures the name of the website’s registrant. Ballot Questions 301 and 302, opposing and supporting recreational marijuana sales, are in direct conflict. If both pass, the measure that receives the most votes will prevail. Ballot Issue 300 A sister initiative to Ballot Question 302, Ballot Issue 300 seeks to regulate how recreational marijuana could be taxed in Englewood. If recreational marijuana sales were approved, Ballot Issue 300 would mandate an initial 3.5 percent sales tax on retail weed, which could not be increased before 2018. After that, the tax rate could only increase by 1.5 percent per year, up to a cap of 15 percent. The measure’s language specifies that revenues collected would be used to fund local law enforcement, educational programs, and the city’s general fund. Ballot Issue 2B A competing measure against Ballot Issue 300, Issue 2B seeks a different tax structure for revenue collected from recreational marijuana sales. Issue 2B, proposed by the city council, mandates an initial 3.5 percent sales tax rate on recreational marijuana, but allows the city to increase or decrease the tax rate at will without voter approval, up to a cap of 15 percent. Ballot Issue 2C The city’s police station is outdated, inadequate and in need of replacement, according to police and city officials. Ballot Issue 2C would increase property taxes by $2 per month per $100,000 of assessed property value to repay debt that would be created when the city sells approximately $27 million in bonds to finance the building of a new police headquarters. The current police headquarters, built in 1972, has a number of problems, say city officials. The roof leaks, forcing staff to cover their desks and computers with plastic sheeting during rainstorms. The facility has six holding cells, of which two have been converted into evidence storage. The remaining four are often overcrowded. The parking lot is unsecured, leaving vehicles susceptible to vandalism and damage. A mailer sent out by the Englewood Police Department in September says the city’s police face greater challenges than when the building was built, owing to an increase in population density, as well as “meth labs, illegal marijuana grow operations, white supremacists, and a proliferation of weapons on the street.” The city hopes to begin building a new police station — possibly adjacent to the current station — as early as next year, with construction wrapping up in 2018. The measure would generate around $2.2 million a year toward paying back the loan, with a total anticipated repayment cost of $47.9 million. Ballot Issue 3E Citing the success of the 2011 bond issue that replaced the old Englewood High School with a new facility, the Englewood School District is now looking to replace its four aging elementary schools and one preschool. The school bond issue would allow the district to sell $97.5 million in bonds, funded by a property tax increase of $4.58 per month per $100,000 of assessed property value. The money would pay to build new schools on the sites of the current buildings. The schools, each at least 60 years old, are rife with problems, according to district officials: insufficient fire suppression systems, noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and obsolete HVAC systems. They say complete rebuilds are more cost-effective than lengthy piecemeal renovations. Ballot Issue 3D Englewood Schools are also seeking a mill levy override to add $1.5 million to the district’s annual operations budget, which the district says would “augment safety and security, attract and retain highly qualified teachers, support staff and leaders, maintain current instructional technology resources, and maintain district facilities and grounds.” The mill levy override would increase property taxes by $2.08 per month per $100,000 of property value. Limitations imposed by the TABOR amendment and Amendment 23 have hampered school funding in Colorado, and state funding of districts has withered in recent years. Although marijuana tax revenues are widely believed to go toward school operations budgets, they do not: Instead, marijuana revenues go toward a grant fund to pay for school construction in impoverished and rural districts. Marijuana tax revenues provide tens of millions of dollars towards the grant fund, but school construction needs across the state are in the tens of billions of dollars. If the police bond, school bond and mill levy override were all approved, property taxes on a $300,000 home would increase by about $300 a year.