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Millions for wildfire mitigation? Colorado Springs voters will decide

Wildfire mitigation
Posted at 10:17 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 09:15:41-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs voters will decide if the city can retain $20 million dollars of excess tax revenue to fund wildfire mitigation. Under Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), government has to get an okay from voters to keep any excess tax revenue. Members of Colorado Springs City Council voted Tuesday to put the question on the ballot.

While speaking to City Council, Mayor John Suthers said, "I think we ought to send the message to the voters that this is a long-standing fund that's going to be around for a while." The plan presented in the ballot question is to use small portions of the lump sum over years, even decades. "Take the money and put it into an account, rather than just spending the money down. We'll be using the interest every year," said Colorado Springs Fire Chief, Randy Royal. The question says spending each year has to be less 5% of the account total.

Wildfire mitigation is considered an essential part of public safety in Colorado Springs. The Chief says the additional funding would substantially expand the safety measure across the city. "We feel it will probably increase our ability to do mitigation about two to three times what we're doing today."

Mayor Suthers said projections show the city’s excess revenue could exceed $20 million by the end of the year. If voters approve the $20 million for mitigation, any amount beyond that will be refunded to taxpayers.

Here is the approved ballot language:

Without imposing any new tax or increasing the rate of any existing tax, shall the City of Colorado Springs be permitted to retain and spend up to $20,000,000 to create a citywide and regional wildfire mitigation and prevention program to be managed by the Colorado Springs Fire Department, this amount being the estimated 2021 revenues above the 2021 fiscal year revenue/spending limitations, and any future interest received thereon, of which no more than 5% of the balance of the fund will be spent annually, and for city fiscal year 2022 and thereafter, the amount allowed by city revenue and spending limitations shall be the total annual revenues received in 2021, adjusted in each fiscal year thereafter for inflation and city growth as provided by charter, as voter approved revenue changes and exceptions to any constitutional, statutory and charter revenue and spending limitations that may otherwise apply? Yes or No.