By Josh Altic
Protect Our Loveland logo
Electors finally cast votes on an initiative seeking a two-year suspension of all fracking related activity in the city of Loveland on June 24, 2014. Although the margin was very narrow, Question 1 was defeated with 10,844 electors voting to reject the measure and 9,942 voting for it, which amounts to 52.17 percent against and 47.83 percent in favor.
With less than 1,000 votes separating defeat from approval, Protect Our Loveland and supporters of the initiative, as well as the Loveland Energy Action Project and opponents, may be left wondering if the long legal battle resulting in an election date of June 24, 2014, may have impacted the outcome of the initiative. Through a jungle of litigation and a final compromise with Larry Sarner, an opponent who sued to keep the initiative off the ballot, Question 1 ended up on a ballot that coincided with the state primary, which was expected to feature a large turnout from voters affiliated with large parties, but less of a showing from independent or small-party voters. Moreover, the primary featured key races for Republican voters, but somewhat unexciting ballots for Democrats.
Additionally, the county elections office refused to administer the election for the city as it has done for the last two decades. This left the unequipped city to run the single-measure election itself, which cost the city an estimated $60,000 - about $30,000 more than the estimated cost of holding an election with the county's help.
The measure originally qualified for the November 5, 2013 election ballot, on which anti-fracking initiatives were narrowly approved in Lafayette, Broomfield and Fort Collins. The Loveland city council, however, decided to postpone the fracking issue in its city because of the ongoing lawsuit filed by Sarner.
- See also: School bond and tax elections in Colorado
Colorado has two different types of ballot measures that are required under two different laws. The first is the Taxpayer Bill of Rights from 1992, which became Section 20 of Article 10 of the Colorado Constitution. Under TABOR, local voter approval is required if the school district wants to exceed its tax levy above the normal rate of inflation set by the consumer price index. The second law is the School Finance Act of 1994. Under the act, voter approval is required when a school district wants to exceed the limit for raising its Total Program Budget. The Total Program Budget is a combined budget that includes the district's general fund, special education and other costs. A school district that wants to exceed the previous year's Total Program Budget by more than 125% must put a plan before the voters. This type of ballot measure has rarely been used; it is considered to be a last resort option.
Colorado law imposes limits on when school districts can hold special elections. Colorado only allows special elections in even numbered years on pre-established general and primary election days in May and November. In odd-numbered years, special school district elections can only occur on the first Tuesday in November.
School districts that want to exceed their TABOR limit can sometimes combine this request with a city TABOR request.