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Arts Funding Fails In Larimer County, Succeeds (Again) In Denver

Stacy Nick
Ballot initiative 200 would have aimed to help fund nonprofit scientific and arts programs in Larimer County, such as Canyon Concert Ballet.

On Nov. 8, voters in Larimer County defeated Initiative 200, which sought to create a Scientific and Cultural Facilities District. However, in Denver, the renewal of their SCFD passed by a wide margin.

Organizers of the failed Initiative 200 in Larimer County vowed to try again in the future.

“I think that it took Denver either two or three times on the ballot to actually pass,” Yes On 200 Campaign Manager Kelly Giddens said.

“And it’s been in Denver and active ever since [1989], so I think it’s just a process of education and really getting the message out there - what the SCFD really is and what it means not only for the arts and science community but for the entire community.”

Giddens and other members of the Yes On 200 campaign, including representatives from Fort Collins, Loveland, Windsor, and Estes Park, will meet for a post mortem to discuss why the effort failed and what’s next.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be next year,” she said. “I do see us coming back though.”

Giddens said a crowded ballot may have also contributed to the loss.

“There were a lot of tax measures on the ballot this year,” Giddens said. “I think that that brings out a lot of the anti-tax voters.”

Getting enough education out to the voters will be key, she said. Showing Denver’s success will also be crucial.

Denver’s SCFD has a point-one percent sales tax. It was renewed with 62 percent of votes and will be extended through 2030.

Last year, it generated $54 million for more than 300 organizations, including the Denver Botanical Gardens and the Boulder Philharmonic. According to a recent Economic Activity Study from the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, the SCFD helped generate $1.8 billion in economic activity, including $520 million in tourism and almost 11,000 jobs.

“It’s a proven model and it has worked brilliantly for [the Denver Metro Area],” said Larimer SCFD proponent and OpenStage Theatre & Company founder Bruce Freestone. “I think that there’s a lot that it has to offer for Larimer County.”

The Larimer SCFD aimed to benefit more than 100 arts and scientific nonprofits throughout the county,  from the large Fort Collins Museum of Discovery to the small Loveland Opera Theatre. Freestone, who organized the Yes On 200 effort, said he’s hopeful that there is still a place for an SCFD in Northern Colorado.

“But right now,” he said, “I’m disappointed in Larimer County.”

Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.
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