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Mountains of Caring

Newspaper: Teton Valley News

Mountains of Caring

Apples, oranges, cherries, plums, bananas, grapefruit, melons, lemons, tangerines and the occasional pomegranate – that would be just a sampling of the variety of different methods used by developers to project their estimated impacts on Teton Valley’s roads, schools, hospital and other public services.  No consistent method of measuring fiscal impacts has made it impossible to compare the relative costs and benefits to the community of different subdivisions. 

On Tuesday, March 16th at 4:00pm, Gabe Preston of RPI Consulting will present the Board of County Commissioners with a way to finally compare spuds to spuds.  Preston, who is based in Durango, Colorado, is considered to be one of the leading analysts of fiscal impacts on rural governments.  Preston has recently worked to develop similar calculators for rural counties throughout the intermountain West. 

The fiscal impacts calculator developed by Preston is based on data obtained from Teton County such as tax revenue, property valuation, law enforcement costs, school expenses, and road maintenance expenditures.  From that information, Preston’s formulas can predict the additional costs and benefits to the county of approving a new development. 

Preston’s calculator is fast, easy and simple to use.  The county planning staff can just enter in the number of proposed residential units, the anticipated value of each lot once a home has been built, and distance of the project from the state highways in the valley and receive output. 

The output from Preston’s calculator will show the long-term impact that a proposed development will have on county resources.  Not only will the calculator make it possible for the county to compare one proposed development to another, but it will also allow the decision-makers to consider different scenarios within the same development. 

A major factor in the calculation of cost to revenue is based on the property taxes that the county can expect to collect from new development.  The calculator can be run with best-case, worst-case and average-case scenarios that give the county a range of potential outcomes.  A major flaw in past fiscal impact studies presented to the county has been the inflated expectations of future property values.  When those dreams aren’t realized, a project can turn from a boost to the community to a bust. 

Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD) has partnered with the Sonoran Institute – Lincoln Institute of Land Policy Joint Venture to commission a series of studies and planning tools such as Preston’s.  The fiscal impacts calculator alone represents an investment of nearly $13,000 in cutting edge planning tools that have been custom-built to serve Teton County and will be donated to the county for use in keeping Teton Valley a special place to live. 

The community is invited to learn more about the fiscal impacts calculator by attending Preston’s presentation to the county commissioners on Tuesday, March 16th starting at 4:00pm.  The presentation will be held in the commissioner’s meeting room on the ground floor of the new courthouse.  We hope to see you there! 

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