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Voters asked to extend TOPS tax in Colorado Springs

Stratton Open Space
Posted at 10:56 PM, Oct 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-08 10:17:44-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Voters will be getting ballots in the mail over the next few days. Among the decisions in Colorado Springs is issue 2C asking voters to extend Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) tax for 20 years. It also increased the tax from one cent for every $10 spent to two cents for every $10. The increased is intended to help with the city’s $270 million dollar backlog of projects and maintenance.

Colorado Springs City Councilman Richard Skorman walks every day in Stratton Open Space, the first property TOPS dollars helped purchase. He was a major advocate for the original TOPS tax and is behind the new initiative. "We have so many parks in disrepair we have so many trails that lead to nowhere and we have other really valuable open space to buy and its now very expensive." Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and all other members of City Council also support 2C.

There is some vocal opposition from another group of park supporters who do not like changes from the original TOPS tax. “The intent was to create a separate and protected tax dollar fund,” said Donna Strom. She believes the 2C initiative leaves potential for TOPS dollars to be diverted from purchasing and preserving open space in favor of parks maintenance projects in the city. The concerns are shared by Colorado Springs resident Bruce Hamilton. He said, "I love parks and I love open space, but I cannot support this ballot issue that will potentially harm the ability to acquire more open space."

“This proposal still allows for that same amount of acquisition,” said Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director, Karen Palus. She said the initiative designates what percentage of money goes to buying open space, reducing the backlog of neighborhood parks not yet built and maintenance.

"It's the smallest tax of its kind of any city in the state," said Skorman. If passed the tax goes from 0.1 % to 0.2$ per dollars. For comparison, in boulder a similar tax is .62%; Jefferson County .5%; Fort Collins .25%. Supporters say the there was talk of asking for a higher amount, but this amount was decided on as something voters would support.