In a few weeks, voters in Colorado Springs will be asked to decide on two major issues that will set the course for the city’s future.
One will ask voters to permit the city to collect a stormwater drainage fee that would allow us to not only develop a comprehensive drainage program, but also free up general fund money for police, fire and other basic city needs.
The second will ask voters for a mill levy override for the city’s largest school district, Colorado Springs School District 11. The money would be used to renovate the district’s aging buildings and bring their learning technology up to 21st-century standards.
Both are asking for more money; both are vital to the city’s economic development and future prosperity.
Thanks to legal action by Pueblo County, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Springs must address stormwater infrastructure and comply with federal regulations, and it must meet the promises it made when developing the Southern Delivery System with our neighbors downstream in Pueblo. In order to make sure we could complete SDS, we’ve agreed to spend the same amount of money on stormwater that we would have collected from the now-defunct stormwater fee — about $17 million a year over the next 20 years.
Since the city discontinued the stormwater fee in 2009, that money has to come from the general fund, affecting police and fire services on which residents rely. Mayor John Suthers says most cities the size of Colorado Springs have far more police and firefighters — and as he points out, the lack of additional officers to meet the growing city’s demands equates to longer response times.
A growing city also demands a first-class K-12 education system to prepare the next generation. That’s why the mill levy override for District 11 is vital. Many schools haven’t had a facelift since the 1960s, and are ill-equipped to prepare students for a new technological age. It’s the second time D-11 officials have sent a mill levy override for the ballot — a similar measure failed in 2016.
It must not fail this time.
To vote against additional funding is to vote against the future workforce and the city’s economic development. If we expect high-tech companies to move here and create high-paying jobs, we should expect to invest in the local workforce. For people without kids in D-11, a vote against the mill levy override is a vote against your own self-interest. Better jobs with higher pay mean more disposable income, more money from sales tax to fund infrastructure repairs and city services and to provide for a robust, thriving city.
Both the stormwater fee and the mill levy override would help solve problems left for far too long by city leaders who haven’t wanted to ask tax-phobic voters for additional funds. Local leaders should be commended for their efforts to improve the city and their direct approach to the problems of infrastructure and education — and for asking residents of Colorado Springs to shoulder the burden of providing for the future.
Both initiatives would create a solid footing for Colorado Springs for decades. How can you say no to that?