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Ballot issue 2: How to use $6 million surplus - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Ballot issue 2: How to use $6 million surplus

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Map of 26 stormwater projects by the City of Colorado Springs. Map of 26 stormwater projects by the City of Colorado Springs.

In the coming weeks, Colorado Springs voters will have the choice of passing or rejecting ballot issue number 2, which concerns a $6 million surplus the city wants to spend on stormwater projects.

The TABOR law allows voters to choose how to spend the money, but the city can request how to use it.

If approved, the city can use the funds to address 26 stormwater projects within city limits, and residents will get an estimate $10 to $16 refunded to them through a credit in utility bills.

If the measure is not approved, that $6 million surplus will be distributed to voters in the form of a roughly $50 refund. 

With Colorado Springs' ongoing flood issues and looming lawsuits from Pueblo stormwater is a big priority for the city. Mayor John Suthers says approving the funds to be used by the city protects us down the road. For the next five years the city has to pay $17 million a year on stormwater to avoid getting sued.

Ballots for the election will be mailed out starting March 10th with an announcement on the results coming on April 4th.

Keep up with the ballot issues and city council candidates with our Election Watch section.


Exact ballot language:

Issue 2: Referred to the ballot by City Council on January 24, 2017, by Resolution 7-17

WITHOUT INCREASING TAXES, SHALL THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS  BE PERMITTED TO RETAIN AND SPEND UP TO $6,000,000, THE ESTIMATED 2016 FISCAL YEAR REVENUE ABOVE THE 2016 FISCAL YEAR REVENUE AND SPENDING LIMITATIONS, AND A LIKE AMOUNT OF ANY EXCESS REVENUE IN FISCAL YEAR 2017, SOLELY FOR STORMWATER PROJECTS LOCATED WITHIN THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS,  ALL AS REQUIRED OF THE CITY UNDER LAW, PERMIT OR CONTRACT, AS A VOTER APPROVED REVENUE CHANGE AND EXCEPTION TO ANY CONSTITUTIONAL OR CHARTER LIMITATIONS THAT MAY OTHERWISE APPLY, WITH EXCESS REVENUE IN FISCAL YEARS 2016 AND 2017 BEYOND THIS $6,000,000 REVENUE CHANGE TO BE REFUNDED TO TAXPAYERS IN SUCH MANNER AS COUNCIL SHALL DETERMINE?


Summary of written comments FOR Ballot Issue 2:

A municipal stormwater program that mitigates flooding and protects water quality is essential to public health and safety. Because stormwater enters the interstate river system it also involves legal obligations to state and federal regulators and downstream communities.

Since a stormwater fee was eliminated in 2009, Colorado Springs is one of very few major cities that does not have a dedicated funding stream for its stormwater program. Because of inadequate general fund spending for stormwater infrastructure and maintenance after 2009, the city is the subject of a lawsuit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) which alleges we are in violation of our MS-4 (water quality) permit.

We were also the subject of threatened litigation by Pueblo County to stop Colorado Springs Utilities from turning on the Southern Delivery System (SDS), an $825 million dollar project which delivers water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs and will provide for the city's growth over the next 40-50 years.

In order to proceed on schedule with the opening of SDS, the city and Colorado Springs Utilities entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement with Pueblo County in April of 2016, committing to spend $460 million over the next 20 years on stormwater infrastructure, maintenance and operations. The agreement calls for the city to expend an average of $17 million per year from 2016 - 2020. That is approximately what the city would have spent if the stormwater fee was still in place.

The litigation with the EPA and CDPHE has not yet been resolved. The local economy is doing very well and this is an opportune time to invest in our city's stormwater program. City sales tax revenues grew 9% in 2016. But under the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) city revenue growth is capped at 2.4%. This means the city will receive revenue over the TABOR cap of an estimated $8-9 million, which must be refunded to residents unless they vote to allow the city to retain it for specified purposes.

Voting yes on Issue 2 in the April municipal election will allow the city to retain $6 million of the revenue above the TABOR cap for 2016 and 2017 and refund the remainder to city residents. The $6 million could only be used for specific stormwater projects listed in the ballot measure.

This money would allow the city to spend significantly more than $17 million on the stormwater program in 2017 and 2018, helping to ensure the city meets its legal obligations regarding stormwater, even if there is an economic downturn in the next several years, without cutting police and fire or other essential services.

Investing in critical public infrastructure during good economic times is the prudent thing to do. By passing Issue 2 we can invest in much needed stormwater infrastructure, meet our legal obligations and still refund money to city residents. And we can accomplish this WITHOUT a tax increase.


Summary of written comments AGAINST Ballot Issue 2:

It's a scam. Total City revenue is over $500 MILLION yearly ($4,400 per average family of four), but politicians still want your tax refunds. For what? A substitute "rain tax," which voters defeated in 2009. It's truly your money going down the drain. The City illegally imposed a $45 MILLION "rain tax" without voter approval. Citizens voted for issue 300 to end it and other illegal revenue.

City Hall ended that "rain tax" but never refunded the money. Also, the yearly theft of utility funds went from $26 MILLION to $31 MILLION. Government calls taxes "fees" to raise them without voter approval. Issue 300 also required their Utilities scheme to end.

However, since 2010, City Hall has stolen $250 million from utility customer payments, while raising utility rates to replace the money. They pay the Utilities CEO almost $500,000 yearly in hush money not to blow the whistle. Last April, the mayor and council signed a financial obligation with Pueblo County that City Hall would spend $460 MILLION over 20 years to benefit Pueblo County.

It's illegal; the city Charter and state Constitution require we get to vote on multi-year "financial obligations." WHY are we spending $460 MILLION to benefit Pueblo County? This new debt was five months after we gave City Hall a $260 MILLION tax increase to fix the roads (besides the $75 MILLION yearly RTA road tax). City Hall says we must incur debt (illegally) because the federal EPA sued the City (illegally).

Our new President pledged to curb EPA bullying and just froze their illegal power grabs. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize the Feds to control rainwater. Nowhere does the City Charter authorize Utilities to fund drainage projects. Pueblo County bluffed our gullible mayor and council into a $460 MILLION gift of YOUR money ($4,000 per family of four). For whom are they working? The City pays the city attorney $192,000 yearly, the chief of staff $190,000, a traffic ticket judge $121,000, the finance chief $169,000, and many other bureaucrats over $100K each, plus fat pensions and huge
fringe benefits.

Utilities has 249 employees making over $100K yearly; that's way over $25 million. Fired City employees get millions in bonuses and hush money. Other illegal City debts total hundreds of millions. Politicians wail they have no money for basic public works. They lie about spending "cuts" but revenue has RISEN 150% in recent years. It's time to "drain the swamp."

Remember how politicians fought tax limits? They said the economy would collapse if we voted on taxes. Now they want the windfall extra growth (!) for their pet projects. They warn we will drown in floods if they don't get this TWO-YEAR tax hike of $12 million. Their demand will cost the average family of four $104. Do politicians deserve your $104 more than you do? NO. Reject the liberal Big Spenders' tax grab. Just say NO to government greed. Vote NO on city issue 2.

Map of Proposed Projects

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