Friday, December 18, 2009

Issue 300: not a big deal?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 at 7:38 PM

Outside of killing the Stormwater Enterprise, what might Douglas Bruce-authored Issue 300 do to city government? Not much, according to a draft ordinance generated by City Attorney Patricia Kelly and obtained by the Independent.

The proposed ordinance, which will be presented to City Council Monday for review, states that Issue 300 should not cancel Colorado Springs Utilities' payment in lieu of taxes — a fee Utilities pays to the city because it is publicly owned and therefore tax-exempt. PILT payments make up more than 1/12 of the city's general fund budget.

Bruce intended 300, which was passed by voters in November, to eliminate PILT payments over eight years.

"Excluding sales and use taxes forwarded from enterprise customers, all enterprise payments to the city shall phase out in eight or fewer equal yearly steps starting in January, 2010, with all yearly savings passed on as reductions to each customer bill dollar amounts as equal as possible," 300 states. "Hereafter, all loans, gifts, and subsidies between an enterprise and the city or another enterprise are prohibited."

According to the draft ordinance, however, PILT payments should not cease, because the city charter allows for them, and because a PILT payment is a reasonable cost of business. Nor should 300 prohibit enterprises from using and paying city employees, such as the City Attorney, or paying their share of the City Council budget. Nor should 300 "prohibit the City from creating or maintaining enterprise obligations."

That last point, by the way, suggests that the city was not required by 300 to end the Stormwater Enterprise — though Council has already elected to end Stormwater fees in 2010 to comply with "the will of the voters."

Councilors have suggested at past meetings that they would like a judge to interpret 300. Kelly recommended the city come up with its own interpretation beforehand, so it would be in a stronger legal position if and when the whole issue goes before a judge.

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