COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved a question for the 2021 November ballot, seeking approval from Colorado Springs voters on a 20-year extension of the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) sales and use tax through 2041, and increasing the current 0.1% rate to 0.2%.
TOPS is a sales and use tax for acquiring, developing and maintaining trails, open spaces, and parks. The tax is currently set to expire in 2025, as approved by voters in 2003.
This would be the first increase to the sales tax since it was first passed by voters in 1997.
Voters will see this question on the November 2, 2021 Special Municipal Election, run in coordination with the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder.
The approved ballot language is as follows:
- Shall City taxes be increased $11,134,000 annually beginning Jan. 1, 2022, and by whatever amounts are raised in years thereafter, by increasing the rate of sales and use tax dedicated to trails, open space and parks (TOPS) from its current rate of 0.1% (one tenth of a cent) or 1 penny on every $10 purchase, to 0.2% (two tenths of a cent), or 2 cents on every $10 purchase, except for purchases of prescription drugs, food and other purchases exempted from sales tax, without changing the purposes, which include:
- Preserving fragile ecosystems, natural areas, scenic vistas and areas, fish and wildlife habitats and corridors, and important areas that support biodiversity, natural resources and landmarks;
- Conserving natural resources, such as water aquifer recharge areas, surface water and forest lands;
- Acquiring, developing and maintaining open space lands and trails; and
- Acquiring, developing and maintaining parks.
- With all expenditures based on recommendations of an advisory committee and subject to independent audit; with no more than 5 percent of revenues derived to be used for administration, planning and program management, and no more than 25 percent for maintenance and operations of all city parks, trails and open space lands, and the remaining revenue divided into 40 percent used for acquisition, development and maintenance of all parks, 30 percent for acquisition, development and maintenance of all trails, and 30 percent for acquisition, development and maintenance of all open space lands, regardless of how acquired; and with the intent of the voters that monies derived from the increase should not offset expenditures from the general fund; and extending the expiration of the TOPS sales and use tax to and until Dec. 31, 2041; the above constituting a over-approved revenue change and exception to any constitutional, statutory and charter revenue and spending limitations that may otherwise apply?