- Associated Press - Sunday, February 26, 2017

DENVER (AP) - Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office is looking for funding to help the town of Burlington recover after losing its largest employer - the Kit Carson Correctional Center.

Burlington has been struggling to deal with a significant economic loss following last summer’s closure of the facility, The Denver Post reported (http://dpo.st/2mzrz2S) Sunday.

The prison was the town’s largest electricity customer, paying a $619,000 annual utility bill. Burlington is also missing out on $65,000 a year that came from the prison’s daily inmate fee.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Mayor Dale Franklin. “We always hope the prison is going to open back up.”

Hickenlooper’s office has asked for $515,000 for a mitigation plan that would backfill a portion of the property taxes lost to Burlington and the county because of the prison closure.

Town leaders remain concerned because they say it won’t be enough to cover even half of this year’s losses.

A portion of the property taxes paid by the prison’s owner, Corrections Corporation of America, funded the town’s schools. The prison’s annual tax bill to the school district was $415,700.

School board president Pauline Durham said she is worried about how the loss of tax dollars will affect building repair and teacher salaries.

“It’s going to mean some tough decisions for us,” Durham said. “We’ve talked about murmurs of the prison closing for probably the last three years at our school board meetings.”

With the prison’s departure, the town’s largest employer is now Midwest Farms, a hog farm with about 200 employees. Dozens of other residents in Burlington work in corn and wheat fields, at a hospital or in welding and equipment repair.

The town has about 3,600 residents, down from 4,200 last year.

The prison will still have to pay property taxes, but officials are expecting a 50 to 60 percent reduction in tax payments now that the facility is empty.

“It’s a real jolt,” said Rol Hudler, the city’s director of economic development. “The prison was the first major firm or facility coming in here to boost our economy. You obviously are going to miss that tremendously, no question about that.”

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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