Colorado Springs needs funding to pay for its stormwater obligations.
What we think:
Springs voters should reconsider a stormwater fee.
Tell us what you think:
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No one likes to pay taxes. And business owners already feel the weight of regulatory burdens that make their livelihoods more costly — particularly small businesses, which frequently must meet the same requirements as their large, multinational counterparts.
And while no one likes to pay that check to Uncle Sam, or see utility rates rise or sales taxes increase for local government initiatives, sometimes politicians’ refusal to act for years means that current leaders have to ask for more funding to fix problems that have festered and grown from neglect.
Mayor John Suthers — not a tax-and-spend liberal by any means — had to do that with the sales-tax initiative known as 2C to pay for road repairs. Now he’s asking for more funding once again, this time to fix stormwater drainage issues unaddressed for so long that it led to a federal lawsuit.
City government officials agreed to a $460 million, 20-year memorandum of understanding with the city of Pueblo, which is on the receiving end of the Springs’ stormwater runoff. And now the Springs has to pay for it.
While voters nixed an earlier stormwater fee — anti-tax advocate Doug Bruce called it a tax and campaigned successfully for its reversal — city officials are again proposing a fee based on the amount of land owned by both residents and commercial interests.
Under the proposal laid out by the mayor, businesses would pay a monthly fee of $22.50 per acre of property. Residential owners with homes smaller than 10,000 square feet would pay $4.25 a month. It’s estimated that would bring in roughly $17 million a year.
That’s also $17 million that the city could use to increase its police force and improve the essential services residents need.
Suthers estimates that the city needs 100 new police officers in the next five to 10 years to keep up with population growth in Colorado Springs. Taxpayers already pay 0.4 percent in additional city sales tax to fund capital and operational needs, but the mayor says that money won’t cover the city’s growing public safety needs.
In order to provide both for public safety and for infrastructure needs — arguably the most important items that residents seek from city government — the Colorado Springs City Council believes that a stormwater fee is necessary.
While it represents an additional burden for city business owners, it also represents an opportunity to fix what’s been wrong for far too long; to fulfill our promises to our southern neighbor and build a city that is attractive to businesses and job seekers alike. The Springs is no longer a small town, and every major city in the country has a version of a stormwater fee.
Putting the proposal on the city ballot would show both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that the Springs is serious about addressing stormwater issues. Passing it would prove that residents understand their responsibility to Pueblo and to the city’s future prospects.
As Suthers said, Colorado Springs already owes the money — it’s acknowledged its obligations. Now it’s time to decide local priorities. Do we want to pay for stormwater at the expense of public safety, snowplowing and other needs? Or do we want a steady, assured source of money that will help bolster infrastructure and build the city of the future?