The long-awaited Highlands Ranch Senior Center project has been indefinitely put on hold as the metro district grapples with a possible $4.5 million revenue decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a May 20 virtual study session of the metro district's board of directors, staff informed the board of the latest financial forecasting, which included projections from the Douglas County assessor's office.
The assessor's predictions include a forecasted drop of 5% in residential values and a 25% decrease in commercial values, according to the presentation by Stephanie Stanley, the metro district's director of finance and administration.
The metro district, which collects the most of its revenue from property taxes, could see up to 23% in decline of revenue as a result, Stanley said. That's why the metro district staff recommended pausing projects like the senior center, construction of a new pickleball court and retiring the district's debt early.
“The Metro District's priority is to sustain the existing services and programs and properly maintain our infrastructure,” Stanley said in an emailed statement after the meeting.
The senior center project will likely be revisited early next year, once the metro district knows just how much property values have decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Terry Nolan, general manager of HRMD.
There is no formal vote expected on this decision in upcoming meetings.
“We were not expecting what was announced,” said Sue Frommelt, president of the Highlands Ranch senior club. “I'm disappointed.”
Frommelt and other seniors are hoping that the district can find some way to still move forward with the project without having to spend much money, she said. However, so far, the district plans to completely put the center on hold.
“This is a project that has been bantered about for 10 years and for the last three, it's been something that is being worked on,” she said. “It has taken a long time to get where we were and basically, we had the rug pulled out from under our feet.”
While Frommelt understands the reasoning behind the decision, she fears that the paused on the project could stretch well into the future.
“We wonder how long it's going to sit there,” she said. “Is it going to go on the back burner for a few years?”
The board will decide in 2021 if their financial woes will allow them to follow through on another long-term plan: Paying off the metro district's debt four years early.
“Maybe it will turn around,” Frommelt said. “Maybe they won't take as much of a hit as they're anticipating.”
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