Northern Colorado Arts Backers Petition For Cultural Tax

<p>(Photo: Courtesy of the Fort Collins Symphony)</p>
<p>The Fort Collins Symphony performs.</p>

After two failed attempts in 2008 and 2009, arts leaders in Northern Colorado may finally get the cultural tax they’ve sought in front of Larimer County voters.

Advocates submitted a petition with more than 11,400 signatures before last week’s deadline. They need 7,252 valid signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. The Larimer County Clerk and Recorder will now verify the total number by August 19.

“This year we started a little earlier, we were a little better prepared, not quite so naïve, and we really rallied a good number of volunteers,” Bruce Freestone, who co-founded OpenStage Theater in Fort Collins, said. “Almost 200 people were carrying packets.”

The cultural tax would generate a penny from every $10 purchase. That money could be split among more than 100 organizations like historical societies and orchestras, said Freestone, who spearheaded the effort.

“I think people recognize that these agencies that could be the recipients of some of this public money do contribute a public good,” explained Freestone. “There is a lot to be said for increasing the access and increasing the ease with which an agency can expand their programming and make it available for more people.”

The Larimer County effort is modeled after a similar one in the Denver area. That cultural tax, known as the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, has been in place since 1989. Last year it divided more than $50 million to around 270 organizations. Voters in seven counties -- from Boulder to Arapahoe -- will be asked if they want to extend that cultural tax this fall.