Voters to decide if El Paso County can keep $15 million in excess revenues
- Breeanna Jent firstname.lastname@example.org
- Oct 11, 2021
EL Paso County voters will decide in November 2021 whether to refund $15 million in excess government revenue back to residents or to use the money to address road infrastructure projects and backlogged parks maintenance.
Courtesy of El Paso County Public Works
El Paso County voters will decide whether the county may keep $15 million in excess government revenues to fund road infrastructure and deferred parks maintenance projects when they cast their ballots Nov. 2 — money that would otherwise be refunded to taxpayers under Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
If voters approve the question, El Paso County will use $13 million of surplus funds to pay for backlogged roadway improvements, including paving and repairing potholes on roads throughout the county. Another $2 million would fund deferred parks projects such as capital improvements, trail preservation and wildfire mitigation at Bear Creek Park, Paint Mines Interpretive Park, Fountain Creek Regional Trail, Ute Pass Regional Trail, The Pineries Open Space and Fox Run Park, including a northern nature center.
The question also asks voters to decide whether to raise El Paso County’s revenue cap to reflect actual 2021 revenue, increasing the limit from $285 million to about $300 million. The amount of the final revenue cap is unknown until next May, because El Paso County will continue collecting additional state and sales tax revenues through the rest of the year, county spokeswoman Natalie Sosa previously said.
TABOR calculates increases in most local government revenues to a formula based on population growth and inflation. Excess can only be used for voter-approved purposes.
Proponents of the measure argue the funds are sorely needed to address aging road infrastructure and restore local parks, facilities large numbers of county residents regularly use, and would do so without raising taxes.
“Because of growth in the county we’re seeing a significant increase in the amount of traffic … and that’s causing the roads to deteriorate faster,” El Paso County Public Works Executive Director Kevin Mastin has said.
Trails and Open Space Coalition Executive Director Susan Davies said $2 million that would be set aside for parks would offset inflated parks maintenance, staffing and materials costs.
Opponents say federal economic stimulus funds coming to the county through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in 2020 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 have “artificially” boosted the local economy. People are still struggling financially because of the pandemic, they said, and approving the measure would deprive them of money they are legally owed.
“I’ve seen far too many parents struggling with closed schools, too many people exhausted trying to find an affordable place to live, too many businesses closed,” County Commissioner Carrie Geitner said during discussions on the question in August. “I think now is the absolute wrong time to take this to our voters.”
Most of the county’s excess revenues come from increased sales tax collections, but economic stimulus funds allocated to El Paso County during the pandemic and small business funding, public safety grants, highway user taxes and state-allocated money for county programs have all put the county over the legal limit, County Controller Nikki Simmons has said.
If the question does not pass, the county will refund the money to residents through property tax credits.