Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

Either City Councilman Bill Murray or anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce will have to shell out $100 on Nov. 3, depending on whether Colorado Springs voters approve a sales-tax increase to fund roads fixes.

The bet was made during a protracted council meeting Tuesday, where citizens testified for hours on two resolutions, both of which won council approval on 8-1 votes.Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

Councilwoman Helen Collins opposed the resolutions, which will place two items on the November ballot:Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

– A proposal to raise the sales tax by 0.62 percent to generate $50 million a year for five years. The money would go exclusively to rebuild, pave and maintain city roads, 60 percent of which are reportedly in poor and rapidly deteriorating condition.

– A request to keep $2.1 million in revenue that exceeded the limit under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). If the money is refunded, each household would get about $11. If the city keeps it, the money will go to parks and trails, both of which were hit hard by this year’s record rainfall.

The sales tax proposal won support from many, including council members known for anti-tax attitudes.

“It’s going to fail,” Bruce told the council. “Three months from now you’ll be looking at defeat because you don’t even understand the voters.”

He challenged the nine council members to “put your money where your mouth is,” betting them $100 each that the ballot issue will fail. Only Murray took the bet.

“I don’t like tax increases,” Councilman Andres Pico said. But three-fourths of the general fund goes to public safety, he said, and he’s not willing to cut that.

Colorado Springs City Council votes to put sales tax, TABOR measures on ballot

The tax increase is temporary, and the city budget should be reformed while roads are fixed, said Councilman Keith King.

“There isn’t another $50 million in the budget (for roads),” Pico noted.

Former Councilwoman Angela Dougan said she hired her own consultant to examine the budget. She urged council members to refrain from voting until they saw his results.

But Mayor John Suthers, who urged the council repeatedly to pass the resolutions, already had described a tight city budget.

“Despite what anybody might say to you folks, we do not have that in the Colorado Springs budget,” Suthers said earlier. “I’m recommending no raises and forestalling capital projects such as roofs on buildings. There is not $50 million without cutting one-third of police or fire.”

The city will have about $10 million more this budget year than last, he said. Of that, $8 million will go to stormwater needs, some will restore the city’s commitment to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, including roadwork, and some will provide body cameras for police officers.

The quest to drum up $50 million a year to fix city roads resonated with many in the audience.

Toby Gannett, of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, said he was driving his 10-year-old son and a friend when they started counting potholes. “He asked me to slow down because there were too many to count,” Gannett said, calling potholes “a shadow tax” that everyone pays through such things as flat tires.

“I urge you to pass this,” said Ray Nunn, owner of Nunn Construction. “I don’t want to lose a grandchild in one of these potholes.”

Dirk Draper, RBA president and CEO, said the state of the roads is an economic development issue. Just as a homeowner stages a house to sell it, so does the city need to prepare to woo potential businesses.

“You are simply giving choice to voters to decide,” said Tony Gioia, a member of Colorado Springs Young Professionals. “Please give us that ability to make that decision.”

The council did, and voters will decide Nov. 3 whether to raise the sales tax, keep the excess $2.1 million or perhaps do both.

Contact Billie Stanton Anleu: 636-0371

Twitter @stantonanleu

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