Thursday, December 29, 2011

Get Precertified NOW to capture Ouray County Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone Tax Credits for 2012

Action Needed by all Ouray County Businesses, including Agriculture and Mining Companies!

All incorporated and unincorporated areas in Ouray County have been designated as an "Enterprise Zone".  Businesses may claim certain types of credits on their Colorado income taxes for activities that occur within an Enterprise Zone. 

The Enterprise Zone program provides business incentives, contribution tax credits (for Colorado income taxes only) and marketing grants to businesses in the Enterprise Zone. 

In addition, the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Ouray County have been designated as an "Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone (EREZ)" which allows for greater financial incentives to businesses that create new jobs in designated economically distressed rural areas. Credits are available for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2003.

The incentive programs are administered on behalf of Ouray County by Region10 which is the designated coordinator.  Region10 staff member Rhona Keckler is the primary Region10 contact for the Enterprise Zone and EREZ programs.  For more information about any of the business incentives, contact Rhona Keckler at 970-249-2436 x 10.  Region10's web site is  It has up to date information about these programs. 
Beginning in 2012, the application procedures and rules for participating in the incentives and tax credit programs available to Ouray County businesses are changing.  New legislation changed the Certification process for activities performed on or after January 1, 2012 that will earn an Enterprise Zone (EZ) Tax Credit.  If your business will perform an activity that will earn an EZ Tax Credit on or after January 1, 2012, Colorado Revised Statute 39-30-103(7)(a) requires that you receive Pre-certification prior to commencing the activity that will earn the credit.  If your business performed all activities that earned an EZ Tax Credit prior to January 1, 2012 only Certification is required. 

Example:  If an Ouray County business plans to create a new position that will be at least 20 hours a week in 2012, in order to qualify for  the available tax credits and other incentive programs, you will need to be pre-certified for the Enterprise Zone program prior to creating the new position.  Filling out the precertification form takes about 5 minutes online.

Most importantly:
  • Applications for tax credits for tax year 2011 and prior years must now be done on line at the State portal (
  • Businesses seeking a tax credit for tax year 2012 must first be pre-certified online before the expenditure or action that qualifies for the tax credit is made.  Then, certification for the tax credit must also be applied for online.   
  • Should a business or tax advisor have any difficulties with on-line submission of pre-certification or certifications, contact Region10 staff right away so that they can assist you.  
If you are conducting business in Ouray County then you might apply for any of the following EZ tax credits in tax year 2012.  Everyone conducting business in Ouray County is encouraged get pre-certified through the Online Pre-certification and certification system RIGHT AWAY!  To get pre-certified, use the Online Pre-certification and certification system at the State Office of Economic Development and International Trade web portal (
Some of the significant incentives that Ouray County businesses may take advantage due to the Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone include:
·         NEW JOB CREDIT FOR EREZ: $2,500 total state tax credit per each new job over 20 hours/week;
·         NEW AG PROCESSING JOB FOR EREZ: $3,500 total state tax credit per each new agricultural product processing job.

Other incentives available to Ouray County businesses because Ouray County is in the 6-county (Delta, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel, Gunnison and Hinsdale) Enterprise Zone include:
·         3% INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT: 3% of equipment purchases;
·         10% JOB TRAINING TAX CREDIT: 10% of qualified training expenses;
·         25% VACANT BUILDING REHABILITATION TAX CREDIT:  25% of rehab expenditures (hard costs) for buildings 20+ years old and that have been vacant at least 2 years;
·         3% RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT (R&D) TAX CREDIT: 3% of increased R&D expenditures;
·         MANUFACTURING AND MINING SALES AND USE TAX: Purchases of manufacturing machinery, machine tools and machine parts are exempt from the 3 percent state sales and use tax statewide. Form DR1191 (can be completed on your computer and is linked from the Region10 web site.) Note: Application for this tax credit is not included in the new online pre-certification/certification program.
·         HEALTH INSURANCE CREDIT (for employers paying a portion of an employee's health insurance premiums):  Businesses qualifying as a "new business facility" or as an "Expansion Facility" are allowed a $200 tax credit for two years for each employee who becomes insured under a qualifying employer-sponsored health insurance program.

CONTRIBUTION TAX CREDIT PROGRAM -- A huge Enterprise Zone benefit to citizens of Ouray County is that additional tax incentives to those who give charitable donations are available if the donations are given to qualified organizations and projects that successfully apply to become an Enterprise Zone Contribution Project.  Examples of groups and project that are already qualified through Region10 and the State of Colorado are Wright Opera House Foundation (Ouray), Museum of the Mountain West (Montrose), (Habitat for Humanity Re-Store) and 17 others in the 6-county Enterprise Zone.  To qualify projects are subject to review and approval by the Economic Development Commission.  A Colorado taxpayer who contributes to a Enterprise Zone Contribution Project can receive a 25% state tax credit for cash donations and 12.5% state tax credit for in-kind contributions, in addition to any federal tax deductions they qualify for.  This encourages greater contributions to these projects and significantly greater tax incentives for those making donations.  The first step for an organization or project to get this designation is to contact the Enterprise Zone Coordinator, Rhona Keckler at Region10.

SMALL BUSINESS LOAN PROGRAM -- Region10 also coordinates small business loans available to Ouray County businesses.  The funds used by Region10 for the loan program come from both federal and state programs including Colorado Development Block Grants, Small Business Administration Microloan Program, "Revolved" Loans, and participation loans with financial institutions.  Applications and eligibility requirements vary between  funding sources.  Loan interest rates vary between very low to low.  Due to the various options, Ouray County Businesses desiring a loan for working capital, equipment, inventory, real estate, or other supportable expenditures should contact Paul Gray at Region10, 970-249-2436 for a custom-fit loan.

All of these programs are designed to promote economic development of the Region10 Enterprise Zone and Ouray County as an Enhanced Rural Enterprise Zone.  If any of these programs sound like something a Ouray County business could have utilized in the past, please still contact Region10, as many incentives can be still captured if the qualifying activities are five or less years ago.

Please share this information freely since it is time sensitive for 2012, and since some past activities can still be captured retroactively for tax credits. 

Ouray Commissioner  Lynn Padgett can be reached at 970-258-0836 (cell) or

Thursday, December 22, 2011

LATN Update from Senators Udall & Bennet

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bennet, Udall Urge Air Force to Address Concerns of Southern and Western Colorado in Flyover Plan

Relay Concerns From Local Officials and Residents

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall are urging the Air Force to address concerns raised by Southern and Western Coloradans following a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) of newly proposed low-altitude flights over Colorado.

In a letter to Terry A. Yonkers, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics, Bennet and Udall requested a full and more comprehensive analysis before any plan moves forward. The draft EA, which underwent a public comment process earlier this year, states that the proposed plan would not result in significant impacts to local communities or the environment. If the draft EA is made final, a full Environmental Impact Statement would not be required.

“As you continue to analyze the comments received during the recent draft EA public comment period, we strongly encourage you to undertake a full and more comprehensive analysis that addresses these concerns and those submitted by all stakeholders in Colorado,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Based on comments from a number of counties, private citizens, and other parties, we believe that substantive improvements to the EA must be made before a decision on this proposal is rendered.”

Because some counties affected by this proposal did not learn of the Low-Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) plan until after the comment period closed, Bennet and Udall are urging that these comments and others receive full consideration by the USAF and that they are taken into account before any decisions are made about moving forward.

Last year, Udall and Bennet sent a letter to the Air Force's Special Operations Command expressing their concerns about the potential impact that proposed Low-Altitude Tactical Navigation flights could have on civilian and military aviation operations and other interests in Southern Colorado and urging additional coordination to ensure that the training missions don't interfere with other military, medical, or agricultural operations.

Full text of the letter is included below.

Dear Assistant Secretary Yonkers:

Thank you for your continued assistance regarding the 27th Special Operations Wing’s proposed Low-Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) area in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.  We wish to express our concern with the current draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and to request that the USAF continue to work to address the concerns of officials and residents in southern and western Colorado.

As you will remember, last year we wrote to Lieutenant General Donald Wurster, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command, expressing our concern over the proposed LATN training area for MC-130 and CV-22 aircraft and ongoing efforts to ensure that USAF planning takes into account civilian comments and military aviation operations in Colorado.  We remain steadfastly committed to our Armed Forces and to ensuring the readiness of our nation’s Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen. Therefore, we also want to ensure that any proposed training area has been carefully coordinated with Army and Air Force commanders in Colorado to protect current and future aviation missions. To this point, leaders from the 27SOW have participated in coordination meetings with the 140th Fighter Wing at Buckley AFB, the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB, and the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, but the outcome of those meetings remains unclear.  The letter also asked USAF to take into account wilderness areas, agriculture operations, ski areas, and the concerns of rural communities.

In August, USAF’s draft EA proposed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), essentially stating that the proposed plan would not result in significant impacts to local communities or the environment.  If the draft EA is made final, a full Environmental Impact Statement would not be required. 

We understand USAF has held at least 16 information sessions in both New Mexico and Colorado to discuss the draft EA and the new proposed training area.  Thank you for proactively engaging the local communities of southwestern Colorado and for organizing an additional session in Aspen.  Unfortunately, some counties affected by this proposal did not hear about the LATN plan until after the comment period closed and have now contacted us with their concerns.  In light of their and other southwest Colorado concerns about the draft EA, we believe USAF must take a number of issues into account before moving forward.

We understand that there are inherent environmental effects associated with any low altitude training area used by our nation’s Special Operations forces.  At the same time, we believe that several issues raised during discussions with officials and constituents have not been sufficiently addressed in the draft EA.

First, rural communities should have an understanding of what specific measures USAF will take to avoid populated areas.  The draft EA merely states that populated areas will be avoided, but gives no definition for populated areas or procedures for how the USAF will do so. It would be helpful if the Air Force would release updated maps that show which populated areas will be avoided.

Second, we are concerned that the draft EA lacks clarity on whether all Special Use Land Management Areas (SULMAs), wilderness areas, and other protected areas will be sufficiently avoided.  Table 3-11 in the draft EA does list several identified SULMAs; however, the EA does not specifically state that each will be avoided by at least 2,000 feet as required by the Department of Defense’s Area Planning Guide for North America (AP-1).

Third, we strongly encourage USAF to work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve mapping analysis of several wildlife species important to Colorado, including at-risk species and game species so crucial to southwest Colorado.  For example, the draft EA makes no mention of the Gunnison Basin sage-grouse, which is a Federal candidate species under the Endangered Species Act.

Finally, we have heard continued concerns from communities that feel general noise impacts, livestock impacts, and public safety concerns have not been adequately addressed.  Attached please find additional correspondence on these important issues and others.

As you continue to analyze the comments received during the recent draft EA public comment period, we strongly encourage you to undertake a full and more comprehensive analysis that addresses these concerns and those submitted by all stakeholders in Colorado. Based on comments from a number of counties, private citizens, and other parties, we believe that substantive improvements to the EA must be made before a decision on this proposal is rendered.

We thank you for your continued engagement on this issue and for your efforts to train our Special Operations Forces with tough, realistic low altitude training for worldwide deployment.  We look forward to continuing to work with you on this important issue.

# # #

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

San Juan Wilderness bill proosal Listening Session/Town Hall Meeting with Representative Scott Tipton

As some people have heard and others may not have, I just got a call from Mike Hess at Represenative Tipton's office:

A Listening Session/Town Hall Meeting is scheduled with Representative Scott Tipton on the proposed San Juan Wilderness bill, for Sept. 30, 5:30 pm at OURAY COMMUNITY CENTER (new location).  Arriving early is suggested.  Just got this press release this morning from a newspaper reporter -- I'm modifying the location to reflect the phone call I just got.

Repeat:  The meeting will be at 5:30pm at Ouray Community Center on Friday, September 30.  Arrive early to sign in.  Those wishing to speak should know that (according to Tipton's staff)  speakers will be chosen in the order they sign in.

Text and maps of the bill reintroduced this week by Senator Udall and co-sponsor Senator Bennet can be found here:

Or at this link:

**PRESS RELEASE by Joshua Green, Press Secretary for Represenative Tipton***  9/27

Congressman Tipton to Hold Public Meetings on San Juan Wilderness Proposal

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) will hold public meetings to gather feedback on the San Juan Wilderness proposal beginning this week.

“My office has been meeting with various stakeholders in the district around Hidden Gems, Chimney Rock, San Juan and Thompson Divide.  Preserving our environment, protecting our state’s treasures, and ensuring that people have the ability to enjoy Colorado’s beauty is important to me.  I appreciate all of the work that Senator Udall and his staff have done on San Juan and I am anxious to gather feedback from my constituents on this issue.  My office will be holding a series of public meetings to gather feedback on the San Juan Wilderness proposal and I encourage all sides to continue their dialogue.”—Rep. Scott Tipton

If unable to attend the public meetings, Rep. Tipton encourages constituents to provide feedback by emailing or mailing his office.


Mailing address:
Office of Congressman Scott Tipton
218 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Tentative Meeting Schedule

·         September 30, Friday, from 5:30-7:00 pm, OURAY Community Center
·         October 18, Tuesday, from 5:30-7:00 pm, location TBA

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Proposed LATN update: New maps to come out of proposed flyovers

Here are the links:

Sept 7 2011 press release  

LATN web page with most documents released by Air Force:

report (large file) released 9/8/11:



New maps to come out of proposed flyovers

Southwest Colo. to see Air Force traffic

By Matthew Beaudin
Editor, Telluride Daily Planet (
September 5, 2011 6:11 AM CDT
The U.S. Air Force has agreed to leave the Eastern Plains of Colorado off its proposed low-altitude training flights, but plans to use the airspace over southwestern Colorado are still intact.

Congressman Scott Tipton said the Air Force has redrawn its maps for proposed low-altitude training flights over Colorado and that those new routes will be published sometime this week.

Tipton said the maps confirm what the military told him earlier this summer — that the flights would occur over western Colorado, not the Eastern Plains, where ranchers had voiced concerns over the Army’s proposed expansion of its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado.

The Air Force has proposed low-flying training flights from Grand Junction and Aspen in western Colorado to Albuquerque. It says the terrain is similar to what pilots encounter in Afghanistan. The concern, though, has come from far — Washington — and near, in Telluride.
Tipton’s office did not return a call for comment late last week. The flights have spawned concerns across the region, with opponents claiming the flights would be upsetting to the natural environment. In one case, the Town of Telluride sent a letter that said the operations “in our mountain setting may be potentially unsettling to our visitors and residents who come here to enjoy our tranquil mountain environment.”

Former Colorado Congressman John Salazar and others sent letters to the USAF asking for more meetings.

The idea is that the Low Altitude Tactical Navigation training could better prepare Air Force pilots for combat. It isn’t clear how close the planes would fly to Telluride, though the plan was enough to draw the concern of environmental groups in the Southwest, notably Sheep Mountain Alliance and Durango’s San Juan Citizen Alliance.

The Air Force has said the terrain was selected due to the varied topography and weather, proximity to Cannon [Air Force Base] and lack of large civilian populations.”

The planes the Air Force would fly in the area are large aircraft. The CV-22 Osprey (a vertical takeoff plane designed for exfiltration and special-forces supply) and the C-130 Hercules (an enormous aircraft used to air-drop troops and equipment into hostile areas) were named in the press release from the Air Force as those the service would fly.

FAA and Air Force regulations require aircraft utilizing the LATN area to avoid airfields, towns, noise-sensitive areas and wilderness areas by prescribed vertical and/or horizontal distances.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

County Road 17 Repairs are Completed; Now for County Road 1

I want to commend the Ouray County Road and Bridge Department, our County Engineers from Russel Engineering, and our contractor Earth Tech,  -- County Road 17 repairs were completed ahead of schedule and under budget.  The County was also able to work with John Ferguson and the incredible team of volunteers that put on the Mt. Sneffels Marathon & Half Marathon.  Due to the team work, dilligence, and flexibility of all involved hundreds of runners were able to utilize County Road 17 for the August 12th running event.  Congrats to Larry Macon who made this his 772nd marathon and to Elyssa Barron who made this her 31st marathon (during her quest to run 51 marathons in 52 weeks).

Now for County Road 1.  About 1/3 of our County lives off of County Road 1, yet this road sees my orders of many magnitudes more daily traffic than any other county road.  Also, approximately 1/2 of our entire county road and bridge annual maintenance effort goes to this one road (which is approximately 13.5 miles of our 220-mile county road system).

When the County voters voted in a new 1% sales tax dedicate to the County Road and Bridge Department, it was estimated to bring in about $450,000/year in revenues.  The county began collecting this in 2009.  Now, with the some revenues saved up, the county has purchased badly needed equipment, road materials, been able to continue to plow the high country jeep roads that are so connected to our economy, and is accomplishing some badly needed deferred maintenance projects on our roads. 

As much of the county knows, County Road 1 near Colona is plagued by drainage problems that caused the road to sink in.  Ashphalt and chip seal plugs simply fell through the bottom.  A road can only be as good as its foundation, and County Road 1 was simply never engineered for the volume, speed, and weight of traffic it receives.  And there was a lot more heavy construction traffic in the mid-2000s.

A new engineered drainage system has been installed in Colona.  The BOCC has awarded contracts for two phases of work on the worst sections of the northern portion of County Road 1, which is beginning this week. When it was realized how much mobilization was going to cost to get the contractor's talent and equipment to County Road 1, I realized it would be far better to get more work for the same mobilization costs.  So I and the Board requested our County Road and Bridge Department to go back and look at the worst sections of County Road 1 and develop a Phase II that could be performed back to back with Phase I.  The source of potential funds I identified were NOT reserves, as reported in the Plaindealer, but was instead money that was BUDGETED to be spent on employee wages and equipment in 2010, but was not spent.  The BOCC has a long standing policy that is not commonly used, to allow up to 1/2 of the unspent "fund balance" from the previous fiscal year to be used on one-time capital expenses.  Phase II of County Road 1 does indeed meet the criteria of this BOCC policy.

Below is the County Press Release regarding County Road 1 work.  If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me at 970-258-0836.

We do not anticipate needing to close the road during construction, but there will be only one lane in places and there may be 5 to 10 minute delays. 

Here is the press release:

Ouray County
County Road 1 Reconstruction Project

Proposed road improvements to County Road 1 (CR-1) just outside of Colona were bid in two separate bid packages by the Ouray County Commissioners (Phase I and II). The low bidder for both phases was Skip Huston Construction, Inc. of Montrose and contracts have been awarded to them for both phases.

Ouray County had budgeted in its 2011 Road and Bridge Capital budget $125,000 to improve a deteriorated portion of CR-1. Upon opening the Phase I bids and discussing the much needed improvements on CR-1, the Board of County Commissioners elected to bid out an additional phase this year entitled CR-1, Phase II. Funding for the additional work for CR-1, Phase II will be derived principally from 2011 operating revenue, and if necessary, a portion of fund balance may be used in accordance with the Ouray County Budget Policy; which authorizes the use of 50% of prior year’s ending fund balance for capital projects. The cost of Phase I will be $115,243 and the cost of Phase II will be $62,111 for a total CR-1 improvement cost of $177,354. Reserve funds will not be utilized for this project.

Phase I involves recycling the existing chip seal surface and resurfacing approximately 1,100 feet  of CR-1 with 3-inches of asphalt about ½ mile west of Colona. Previous damage to the road surface was attributed to saturation of the subgrade by subsurface water seepage from an existing irrigation pond and irrigation ditch uphill of the road section, so a subsurface drainage system is also being installed as a part of this phase.

Phase II consists of improving the curve just west of the Colona Grange. Once again, excessive damage to this section can be attributed to subgrade saturation from adjacent irrigation ditches. Three hundred and eighty (380) feet of road will be raised up to 2 feet above the existing road surface and a subsurface drainage system will be installed on the uphill side of the road. Once again, the repaired section will be surfaced with a 3-inch asphalt mat.

The contractor will begin construction on both phases on Monday August 22, 2011. Traffic on CR-1 may be limited to one-lane between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., with up to 5 minute delays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; and up to 20 minute delays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Construction is expected to last through September.

If you have questions, please contact Bill “Frowny” Frownfelter or Chris Hardrick of Russell Planning and Engineering, Inc. 970-385-4546 or Chris Miller, Ouray Road and Bridge Supervisor at 970-626-5391.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Greetings, since first learning about this free service (free for Counties and free for Citizens) at the Winter Colorado Counties conference in Nov. 2009, and then learning more while attending National Association of Counties Legislative Conference in 2010 -- I have wanted Ouray County to offer this card to our citizens.  Commissioner Albritton agreed.  There are now 28 Colorado Counties that offer this free service to their Citizens.

This unique discount card will help our uninsured and underinsured Ouray County citizens obtain discount on their prescriptions filled at over 60,000 participating pharmacies nationwide -- including Ridgway Pharmacy.
Even if you have insurance, you can check prices with the card and see if you can get a lower price.  Note:  The NACo Prescription Discount Card Program is NOT insurance.

All you need to do is download a card, print it, and use it!

Many prescriptions are discounted more than the average 24%.  You can also use the card to get discounts on subscriptions for pets that are filled at a participating pharmacy.
One card will cover your entire family, including pets.  You can use the same card when you are travelling out of town at over 60,000 pharmacies nationwide.

 To Get Started Now:

1.  Download & print the card here:
2.  Check drug prices (optional) here:
3.  Search for local pharmacies (& out of town pharmacies while you a traveling) here:
4.  You can read FAQs here:
5.  You can find additional information on drug interactions and other drug information in the drug database here:
6.  Mail Order information and mail order price list can be found here: 
7.  Additional Health Resources (including comprehensive health and medical information on a wide range of topics and services for certain health conditions) can be found here:
More Details:
Ouray County is introducing a prescription discount card program to help consumers cope with the high price of prescriptions.  The County has signed a contract to make free prescription discount cards available to Ouray County citizens under a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties (NACo).  The card will provide an average savings of twenty two percent (22%) off the retail price of commonly prescribed drugs.
The cards, which will be available at your Doctors' Offices, Public Health, Social Services and County Clerk and Recording Offices may be used by all county residents, regardless of age, income, or existing health coverage.  The cards may be used locally and regionally, and may be used at many pharmacies.  A network of more than 60,000 participating retail pharmacies also will honor it.  Ouray County residents may also go on line to print your own card at
The NACo prescription discount card will offer significant savings for the uninsured and underinsured residents of our county, and even those fortunate to have prescription coverage may use the card to save money on drugs that are not covered by their health plan. Residents are also encouraged to ask their local pharmacies for price comparisons.  Residents do not have to be Medicare beneficiaries to be eligible for this program.  Prescriptions for pets that are filled at participating pharmacies are also eligible for discounts through this program.
There will be no cost to county taxpayers for NACo and Ouray County to make these money-savings cards available to residents. 
“Using the NACo prescription discount card is easy,” said Cheryl Roberts, R.N. Director of Ouray County Public Health.  “A cardholder will simply present it at a participating pharmacy.  There is no enrollment form, no membership fee and no restrictions or limits on frequency of use.  Cardholders and their family members may use the card any time their prescriptions are not covered by insurance.” 
For more information or to search for drug coverage and cost or view additional health resource information, go to

Friday, March 18, 2011

Letter to Representative Tipton regarding Secure Rural Schools Funding for FY2012 and future SRS reform

As you are aware from learning about Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) recently, many counties are compensated for the tax-exempt status of federal lands lying within their county.  Our county is approximately 50% federal public land (159,584 acres).  Another form of federal payments to counties to compensate for the tax-exempt status of these federal public lands are "Forest Payments", also known as Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments.
A summary of SRS published by the Congressional Research Service (June 24, 2010) contains excellent background information:
"Counties with federal lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service as National Forest lands (such as we have the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre & Gunnison National Forest & San Juan National Forest) and with certain Bureau of Land Management lands have historically received a percentage of agency revenues from fees and sales of forest products generated by these lands." 
Since 1908 the USFS has paid 25% of its gross receipts to the states for use on roads and rural schools in the counties where the national forests are located.  This mandatory spending program was enacted to compensate local governments for the tax-exempt status of the national forests, but the compensation rate (10% of gross receipts in 1906 and 1907; 25% of gross receipts since) was not debated in 1906-1908.  This program is called "USFS Payments to States" because each state allocates the funds to road and school programs. --but the USFS determines the actual amount each county receives or uses.  As timber sales especially declined substantially, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (SRS; P.L. 106-393) as a "temporary, optional program" based on historic revenues rather than current revenues. 
SRS expired at the end of 2006.  Congressional debates over reauthorization have considered several formulas.  Meanwhile, legislation with mandatory spending raises policy questions about increasing the federal deficit and thus poses a procedural barrier to enabling legislation.
There are many valid concerns about SRS, including: 1) a decline in USFS receipts of 83% since 1989; 2) annual fluctuations of payments (up and down) by more than nearly 30% annually (making it hard for the federal and local governments and schools to budget); and 3) linkage between competing management decisions and outcomes.  In the long-term the SRS system should be modified, with serious consideration of changing to more of a tax-equivalency compensation system for local governments and rural schools.
However, without a short-term action, our rural schools will lose the federal funds we need to offset the tax-exempt status of nearly half of Ouray County.  Over  75% of the SRS payments received by Colorado counties goes directly to local rural schools.  Ouray County distributed 75% of the SRS forest payments to our Ouray County local schools in 2010 and 2011.  The remainder goes to the County Road and Bridge Department, to help provide safe routes to the schools.
As a result of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, 38 Colorado counties received $17.2 Million in FY2008, $12.2 Million in FY2011, dropping to $5.0 Million in FY2012.  The funds received by these 38 Colorado counties affect 2,819,994 people & 480,000 Colorado school children.
As a result of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, Ouray County received $96,745 in FY2008; $86,066 in FY2009, $78,763 in FY2010, and $70,877 in FY2011. 
Rural schools in Representative Tipton's Third Congressional District are the most affected by the decrease in SRS Funds.  27 Third Congressional District counties, together totaling 667,373 people, received $14,231,847 in FY2008, $10,085,105 in FY2011, and this will dramatically drop to $4,159,396 in 2012; a loss of over $10 Million since 2008, with at least 75% of that money going to our rural schools (see attached map). 
For example, in Ouray County, by Resolution 2011-006, $59,097.26 was transferred to the Public School Fund, and " distributed to each school district in the County in proportion with which its pupil enrollment during the preceding school year bears to the aggregate pupil enrollment in all districts in the County during said preceding school year".

By Resolution 2010-014, $64,549.62 was transferred to the Public School Fund by Ouray County and distributed to the local rural public schools in the same manner. 

These funds covered one and a half to two teachers' salaries each year for the Ouray and Ridgway School Districts, directly contributing to our locals schools' abilities to have manageable class sizes and excellent performance ratings.  Both school districts are currently ranked among the best in the State.

During a luncheon on March 17 (yesterday) with Reggie Bicha, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, Governor Hickenlooper, and Colorado Human Services Directors Association, and Casey Family Programs, emphasizing opportunities for increased State-Local Partnerships to benefit Child Welfare in Colorado. A reoccurring theme of the speakers was that healthy kids live in healthy families and in healthy communities.  It was acknowledged by the Child Welfare experts that 40% of American children are not fluid readers by 8th grade, with the statistics worse for those children who do not have a permanent and healthy living situation.  For these reasons very few foster children ever make it to college.  Ouray County schools produce excellent readers with a very high percentage of local children going on to college and higher educational opportunities.  Losing Secure Rural Schools funds, or leaving them at the FY2012 level, will have an impact on our schools and communities in Ouray County and the Third Congressional District.  These funds contribute to the health of our Ridgway and Ouray schools.  This comes at a time when schools are struggling for appropriate state and federal funding, at a time when our local schools have just made significant cuts from the loss of State funding, and as local property tax revenues are projected to fall which will reduce another funding source. 

Now, more than ever, the health of our children, families, and communities depends on full funding of SRS at the FY2008 levels to offset the tax-exempt status of federal public lands within their counties. 

I urge you to sign the "Dear Colleague" letter by March 18th (attached)!  It is essential to support full funding of the Secure Rural Schools forest payments at FY2008 levels next year and to work with your colleagues toward an appropriate long-term compensation system for rural schools and local roads.

Lynn Padgett,
Ouray County Commissioner, District 1

Friday, March 11, 2011

Press Release for NACo Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Commissioner Padgett Addresses Federal Funding for County Programs at NACo Legislative Conference
Works to Help Carry Rural County Government Message to Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C. -- By some federal accounts the recession may have officially ended months ago, but not as far as Ouray County and other Colorado Counties local governments and schools are concerned.  That was the message delivered to Capitol Hill by Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett (District 1) and more than 1,500 fellow county officials from across the country during the National Association of Counties' (NACo) 2011 Legislative Conference, March 5-9, in Washington, D.C.  Colorado Counties had a pre-conference caucus on March 4 and ended their conference after a full day on Capitol Hill meeting with Colorado Senators and 6 Colorado Representatives on March 10.
The San Juan Mountains were well represented by Commissioner Padgett (Ouray County), Commissioner Art Goodtimes (San Miguel County), and Commissioners Wally White and Kellie Hotter (La Plata County).  Altogether, the Colorado Counties delegation had 42 County Commissioners and 10 County Staff or other Elected County Officials, for a total of 52 NACo Legislative Conference attendees.
Colorado Counties are well known at NACo for their organization and team spirit, by holding the Colorado Counties state caucus the night before the start of the conference to determine group positions on NACo resolutions and federal policies affecting county governments. 
During the Conference attendees attend leadership seminars, Steering Committee meetings, Caucus meetings such as the Colorado caucus, Western Interstate Region caucus, and Rural Action Committee caucus.  Commissioner Padgett attended all of these.  Schedules are crammed, with sessions or meetings starting as early as 7am and going until 5:30pm. 
Steering Committees have members from states including Alaska and Hawaii throughout the U.S.  These committees help shape federal policies affecting County governments and send communications in the form of letters and resolutions to federal legislators, departments such as the Interior Department, and the President on matters affecting counties.   Commissioner Padgett was elected to a two-year term by her Colorado Commissioner peers on the Public Lands Steering Committee.  Her term is from January 2011 to January 2012.  Her conference fees, travel, and hotel during the conference were paid by the Public Lands Steering Committee at no cost to Ouray County tax payers.
Resolutions contemplated by the Public Lands Steering Committee during this conference included the recent discussion and a split vote on communicating opposition to Secretarial Order #3310 on Wild Lands; supporting a change in Forest Service personnel organization to place law enforcement officers under the direction of Forest Supervisors (timely based on Ouray County's recent discussion with our local USFS regarding the backcountry ranger for jeep roads); and supporting the exemption of renewable biomass combustion emissions from the EPAs "Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule".

Presentations at the Public Lands Steering Committee included one on illegal marijuana growing operations in western National Forests and development of an "All Lands, All Hands" Natural Resource Academy to help community-based collaborative approaches to natural resource planning, project design, and implementation across jurisdictional boundaries.  Subcommittee meetings focused on federal land payments to counties including the Payment-In-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments, federal land management, and gateway communities.

Educational sessions offered the opportunity to learn about federal grant opportunities and gain greater understanding of emerging federal issues, and key NACo initiatives including the County Works, Veterans and Military services, and Restoring the Partnership campaigns.

Commissioner Padgett met with the NACO Prescription Drug Card Program administrators.  Ouray County will be rolling out this free program around April 1st.  It will allow residents to use a free card to obtain many of their prescriptions at a discount.   Arapahoe County stated it has saved their citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Educational sessions were recorded this year, so that Commissioners could listen to recordings of sessions they missed while attending other concurrent sessions.  Sessions attended by Commissioner Padgett included presentations and discussion on foreclosure; changes to the Clean Water Act; issues on siting of Renewable Energy components; and cutting-costs of County Government with technology.

Other highlights of this conference were speakers that included U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Admiral Mike Mullen, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Joe Scarborough, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), House Natural Resources Committee Chair Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica.

Many of the speakers publically concurred with NACo President Judge Glen Whitley's recent letter to President Obama and NACo Resolution on the federal deficit.  Key points made by President Whitley and NACo were that Congress and the President cannot solve budget deficit by only cutting domestic, non-military discretionary spending that makes up 12% of the annual federal budget "on the backs of the American people and local governments".  One speaker said that in the 1970s non-miliatary, discretionary spending was 55% of the annual federal budget.  Several speakers acknowledged that the war in Iraq & Afghanistan is costing over $2 billion per week, and is using borrowed money to be financed.  They said that it was impossible to balance a budget if "entitlements are off the table, revenues are off the table, and defense is off the table".  The repeated theme from both the Republican and Democrat speakers was that not investing in education, infrastructure, and innovative research and development is foolish. 

The Conference concluded with a long day on Capitol Hill for the Colorado county officials.  Leaving at 6:45 am they first had "the most expensive bagel you will ever buy" with Senators Bennet and Udall.  County attendees had to pay $31 in cash each to cover shared transportation to the Hill ($9), and shared orange juice, coffee, and bagels ($22) for themselves and the Senators.  However, the opportunity to have an intimate discussion with the Senators and their staff's for a half-hour each, is productive at making county priorities known and strengthening relationships and partnerships with our federal legislators and their staffs.  Thus, while steep, it is the price of doing business in Washington, D.C.

Colorado Commissioners discussed 6 topics that had been voted on by the Colorado counties as being important, and presented each Senator and Representative with talking points on each topic, an executive summary on PILT with maps of how Colorado's funds are allocated, and a map of SRS fund allocations.  The 6 topics discussed were:
·         the importance of not imposing unfunded mandates on counties; the importance of PILT and SRS funding for counties at 2008 levels to counties and rural schools for at least 10 years;
·         supporting a multi-year transportation bill that would identify a new, sustainable funding source to support highway and transit projects;
·         adequate funding for the USFS for campground and trail maintenance, forest health, and wildfire protection needs as bark beetles continue to destroy at least 100,000 trees a week in Colorado;
·         support for Child Welfare funding flexibility, especially supporting IV-E waivers that would allow counties to use preventative services to prevent more expensive foster care arrangements;
·         support of Clean Colorado Coal technologies.

Commissioner Padgett worked with Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) staff to develop colorful maps to highlight the importance of PILT and SRS funds for counties.  The SRS map, which highlights a loss of $10 million dollars of funds for FY2012 compared to FY2008, was impressive to both of the Senators and especially Representative DeGette, whose district receives no PILT or SRS funds.  In speaking on the SRS issue, Commissioner Padgett said, "The fact that Colorado will lose $12.2 million dollars in FY2012, and that 75% of more of that money is distributed by the counties directly to local rural school districts affecting 480,000 Colorado school children, is an issue for all of Colorado.  I hope you will all [all Colorado legislators] discuss this at your joint breakfast next week.  To turn this around it will require immediate action with the ongoing House Resolution. Summit County and Eagle County are each reporting declines in property valuations by 30-35%.  Half of the property tax revenues go to the schools.  This is dire.  The remainder of the SRS funds go to rural county Road and Bridge Departments to provide safe routes to schools."

Commissioner Padgett highlighted to Representative Tipton that his congressional district, the 3rd Congressional District, is going to lose $10 of that $12.2 million. 

"Representative Tipton was very gracious and sincere about strengthening local-federal partnerships," Commissioner Padgett shared after a dinner at America's Restaurant in Union Station with Representative Tipton and his staff.  Rep. Tipton invited the Colorado county officials to dinner on March 9th, and it was attended by over 25 county officials, primarily from the 3rd Congressional District.

Commissioner Padgett can be reached about this conference or any other county matter at or 970-258-0836.