This week at Aspen Journalism, we brought you reporting born out of the question, “where does our local public health agency stand post-COVID?” We answered that question in part with Elizabeth Stewart Severy’s September story, “Pitkin County Public Health turns focus to climate” and Severy followed that up on Monday with her look at how concern coming out of the pandemic about declining early-childhood vaccination rates is also on officials’ minds. The story contains a data breakdown on how Pitkin County’s rates compare to statewide trends. What’s especially interesting is that while this area tends to have higher vaccination rates overall, we also have higher numbers of families who have received vaccination exemptions for their children, compared to state averages. And there is almost no “noncompliance” here — referring to those who have not submitted proof of vaccination or a qualified exemption — while statewide that number averages as high as 8%.
Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett checked in last weekend with her dispatch from the cutting edge of drought resilience planning, sharing a story of local ranchers participating in an experimental program. Supported by state funding and administered by the Roaring Fork Conservancy, the ranchers are investigating how applying biochar to their fields — among other treatments — might enable forage crops to grow using less water.
And finally, Data Editor Laurine Lassalle today published her breakdown of Pitkin County property values following the reassessment cycle that saw new notices of valuation sent to homeowners back in May. With property values shooting up at historic rates, compared to the last reassessment cycle two years prior, more than a quarter of property owners filed a protest. With 99% of those protests now finalized, through an appeal process that ran through late September, the bottom line is that Pitkin County’s cumulative property value is up 72%. However, some neighborhoods and subdivisions appreciated at even higher rates, especially in areas with high-end properties outside the Aspen core. COVID migration patterns, increasing wealth and short-term rental revenue streams all contributed to what hearing officer Mick Ireland said was the biggest jump in valuations he has seen in over 25 years.
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Hearing process has resulted in at least $1.3 billion in valuation reduction
By Laurine Lassalle | October 13, 2023
Pitkin County commissioners, sitting as the Board of Equalization on Wednesday, approved the updated property valuations after more than 4,700 protests were filed in the spring. The cumulative value of all Pitkin County properties reached $74 billion before the hearing process was conducted throughout the summer. This was up from $42 billion in 2022. After the hearings, the cumulative value is down to $72.4 billion (an average of $4 million per property).
Local officials focus on preschool rates; state law creates new process for exemptions
By Elizabeth Stewart-Severy | October 9, 2023
Pitkin County schools tend to have high rates of compliance. Aspen School District’s three public schools have compliance rates between 98.7% and 99.8%, compared with a statewide average of 91.9% of students in the K-12 age group.
Soil health project tests treatments with little water
By Heather Sackett | October 6, 2023
If the soil treatment techniques work and are able to be scaled up, they could be part of the solution for drought-stressed crops and ranchers throughout the state.
ASE records above-normal air temperatures
By Laurine Lassalle | October 10, 2023
• The Fork at Stillwater ran at 166 cfs on Oct. 9, up from 118 cfs on Oct. 1.
• Lake Powell was 37.61% full on Oct. 9, down from 37.7% last week.
• Minimum air temperatures at ASE reached 45°F on Oct. 1, or about 13 degrees above normal.
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