Election Watch: Colorado Springs Question 2A (Stormwater Fee) - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Election Watch: Colorado Springs Question 2A (Stormwater Fee)

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The City of Colorado Springs faces $460 million worth of required stormwater improvements over the next 20 years.  It's a promise made to Pueblo to ensure utilization of the Southern Delivery System and to the EPA, which sued the city over neglect of its stormwater infrastructure -- a result of rejected or rescinded taxpayer funding mechanisms over the past 25 years.

Currently, funding for those improvements comes from the city's General Fund.  In Question 2A, the city is asking voters to approve a new fee to fund stormwater improvements through a separate stormwater enterprise.  All residential property owners and renters would pay a flat fee of $5 extra on their monthly utility bill.  Non-residential property owners would pay the city a monthly fee of $30 per acre.  The fees would remain in place for the next 20 years. 

Proponents include two-thirds of City Council, the editorial board of the Colorado Springs Business Journal, and Mayor John Suthers, who says the $17 million per year freed up in the General Fund would be used to enhance public safety through hiring of more police and firefighters.

"We need 100 to 120 more cops in the next 5 years," Suthers told News 5.  "We cannot do that unless we free up General Fund (dollars) by instituting a stormwater fee."

Opponents of the fee include one-third of City Council (Bill Murray, Don Knight, and Andy Pico), Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) author Douglas Bruce, and conservative activist Laura Carno.  They argue the fee is disproportionately burdensome on lower-income earners, that it benefits developers, that it is a property tax in disguise, and that the city already has enough money to pay for its stormwater obligations.

"The city actually has record revenues, so I think that the mayor should look within the existing city budget, just like we do in our own homes, to see where we can get the money from and not ask the taxpayers for yet more money," said Carno, whose web site springstaxpayers.com outlines opposition arguments.

"We cannot fix the stormwater infrastructure problem and put 120 more officers on the street in the next five years if we don't increase revenue by doing what every major city does and enact a very reasonable stormwater fee," Suthers said.

"I think there's a little bit of tax fatigue going on out there where citizens are saying, 'You can't find the money in the budget and you keep coming back to us. Do something different'," Carno said.

Question 2A asks:

Without imposing any new tax or increasing any existing taxes, shall Ordinance No. 17 - 69 of the City of Colorado Springs be approved authorizing: the collection of stormwater service fees beginning July 1, 2018 and ending July 1, 2038, for the sole purpose of funding through a City enterprise, the construction, improvement, operation and maintenance of public stormwater facilities and a public stormwater system in the City, including regulatory permit compliance and protection of life and property within the City from the hazards of flooding and stormwater, to be assessed on all developed real property within the City, with such fees not to exceed the following maximum amounts:

Residential property:            $5.00 per dwelling unit/month
Non-residential property:  $30.00 per acre/month

providing that such fees may be thereafter increased by City Council by Resolution only to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, and intergovernmental agreements of the City entered into before June 1, 2016; and providing for citizen advisory committee oversight?

Mail-in ballots for the 2017 municipal general election will be mailed out beginning October 16.  Ballots must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 7.

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