Need Some Last-Minute Help on Those Ballot Measures?

Mar 30, 2017

Colorado Springs city elections are on April 4th. In addition to all six city council districts, there are three questions on the ballot.

Here's some information on those issues:

Issue 1: If passed, this measure would require a higher percentage of voters to approve the sale of any part of Colorado Springs Utilities. The goal is to make it more difficult to move away from public ownership of the utilities.

Here's the ballot language: SHALL ARTICLE VI, SECTION 6-80 OF THE CHARTER OF THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT CITY COUNCIL CANNOT SELL ALL OR ANY SUBSTANTIAL PART OF THE CITY’S WATER SYSTEM, WASTEWATER SYSTEM, ELECTRIC LIGHT AND POWER SYSTEM, GAS SYSTEM OR OTHER UTILITY OWNED BY THE CITY WITHOUT APPROVAL BY AT LEAST SIXTY PERCENT (60%) OF THE ELECTORS OF THE CITY VOTING UPON SUCH QUESTION, RATHER THAN A SIMPLE MAJORITY OF THE ELECTORS (OVER 50%) AS REQUIRED BY THE CURRENT CHARTER?

A YES vote means you would like to change the rules to require a 60% majority to approve selling utilities.

A NO vote means you would like the rules to stay as they are, requiring a simple majority.

Councilor Keith King, who isn't running for reelection, introduced the measure. At the time, he told city council the utilities are a valuable asset. He said, "We have an issue of whether or not they should be municipally owned, as opposed to being owned by a for-profit entity that would be something that would change the total character and structure of the utilities. So we have an ability, with saying this, that this is an issue that we want to protect."

Selling utilities could bring in a lot of money for the city.  Supporters of this measure think there is more to be gained from keeping them. 

Issue 2: If passed, this measure would allow the city to use a portion of excess tax revenue for stormwater management projects.

Here's the ballot language: 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?

A YES vote means you would like the city to keep up to $6 million in excess tax revenue in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to use for stormwater projects.

A NO vote means you would like the city to refund that money back to the taxpayers.

Due to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR, the city is required to ask voters whether it can keep and use these funds. TABOR sets spending limits and requires governments to ask the people before using money that exceeds those limits.

This measure asks for up to $6 million in both 2016 and 2017, which is expected to make up about two thirds of excess tax revenue. If voters decide not to allow the city to keep their excess tax dollars, residents would be refunded that money, likely as a credit on their utility bills. The city says that would come out to a little over $40 per person. If the measure passes, taxpayers will still be refunded a lesser amount.

This measure comes from Mayor John Suthers' office. Many city councilors and city council candidates have said stormwater infrastructure is the most pressing issue facing Colorado Springs.

The city has an agreement with Pueblo that requires it to spend a minimum of $16 million each year on stormwater. If passed, Councilor Tom Strand told 91.5 KRCC this measure wouldn't affect the city's existing budget plans for stormwater projects.

On March 14th, City Council passed a resolution in support of this measure, noting that the city is experiencing "strong fiscal times," and it's best to invest in stormwater infrastructure now. That resolution passed 6 – 3 with Helen Collins, Bill Murray, and Andy Pico voting no.

The stormwater management plan can be found here.

 

Issue 3: If passed, this measure would allow the city to explore providing internet services.

Here's the ballot language: WITHOUT INCREASING TAXES, SHALL THE CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE, OR TO FACILITATE OR PARTNER OR COORDINATE WITH SERVICE PROVIDERS FOR THE PROVISION OF, "ADVANCED (HIGH-SPEED INTERNET) SERVICE," "CABLE TELEVISION SERVICE," AND "TELECOMMUNICATION SERVICE," EITHER DIRECTLY, INDIRECTLY, OR BY CONTRACT, TO RESIDENTIAL, COMMERCIAL, NONPROFIT, GOVERNMENT OR OTHER SUBSCRIBERS AND TO ACQUIRE, OPERATE AND MAINTAIN ANY FACILITY FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING SUCH SERVICES, RESTORING LOCAL AUTHORITY AND FLEXIBILITY THAT WAS TAKEN AWAY BY TITLE 29, ARTICLE 27, PART 1 OF THE COLORADO REVISED STATUTES?

A YES vote means you think the city should be permitted to provide internet services. It doesn't mean the city will begin providing services, just that they are allowed to do so.

A NO vote means you think the city should not be involved in providing internet services.

In 2005, a state law passed which prohibits local governments from competing with private internet providers unless voters allow them to do so. Since then, communities across the state have put this issue on the ballot.

On March 14th, City Council passed a resolution in support of this measure, noting, "voters in 95 Colorado communities have overwhelmingly approved such measures, restoring local authority and flexibility." The resolution passed 8 – 1 with Helen Collins voting no.