Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Poll: Springs voters would approve new fee for drainage control

Posted By on Wed, Jul 5, 2017 at 11:10 AM

click to enlarge A majority of city voters would approve of stormwater fees, a poll shows. - MAGELLAN STRATEGIES
  • Magellan Strategies
  • A majority of city voters would approve of stormwater fees, a poll shows.

UPDATE:

The city tells us that churches as well as government entities would fall under the institutional/public facilities category for fees.

—ORIGINAL POST 11:10 A.M. WED., JULY 5, 2017—

More than half of those polled in late June favor a stormwater fee, according to a poll by Magellan Strategies funded by political activist group Colorado Springs Forward and the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC.

To be precise, 51 percent said they would approve a ballot measure that imposed monthly stormwater fees on residential, commercial, industrial and "institutional/public facilities."

But it's unclear if the November 7 ballot measure being contemplated by Mayor John Suthers, who just won voter approval of a road tax in November 2015, would also impose fees on nonprofits and churches, many of which have massive impervious parking lots that contribute to the city's drainage issues. We'll update if we hear back from the city.

In any event, the ballot language tested on the 475 people polled states that although the initial fees are low, that City Council could raise them as long as the increase doesn't exceed the cost of living increase.

However, Suthers' spokeswoman Jamie Fabos says the language tested via the poll might not be the language seen on the ballot.

"The sample ballot language you see in the attachment is for purposes of gauging public sentiment only," Fabos says in an email. "Should it advance / be referred to the ballot, the language, amounts and details could change."

Here's the language tested in the poll:
WITHOUT ANY INCREASE IN THE RATE OF EXISTING TAXES OR IMPOSING
ANY NEW TAX, SHOULD THE CITY COUNCIL OF COLORADO SPRINGS
ADOPT AN ORDINANCE AUTHORIZING:
THE RE-IMPOSITION AND COLLECTION OF STORMWATER SERVICE FEES
COMMENCING JANUARY 1, 2018 AND CONTINUING FOR A PERIOD OF
TWENTY (20) YEARS, FOR THE PURPOSE OF FUNDING THROUGH A CITY ENTERPRISE, THE CONSTRUCTION, IMPROVEMENT, OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE OF PUBLIC STORMWATER FACILITIES AND A PUBLIC STORMWATER SYSTEM IN THE CITY, INCLUDING PROTECTION OF LIFE AND PROPERTY WITHIN THE CITY FROM THE HAZARDS OF FLOODING AND STORMWATER, TO BE ASSESSED ON ALL DEVELOPED REAL PROPERTY WITHIN THE CITY, WITH SUCH FEES NOT TO EXCEED THE FOLLOWING AMOUNTS:

FOR RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY: $5.00 A MONTH
FOR INDUSTRIAL PROPERTY: $36.00 /ACRE/MONTH
FOR COMMERCIAL PROPERTY: $26.00 /ACRE/MONTH
FOR INSTITUTIONAL/PUBLIC FACILITIES: $23.00 /ACRE/MONTH

PROVIDING THAT SUCH FEES MAY BE THEREAFTER INCREASED BY CITY COUNCIL BY RESOLUTION ONLY AS REQUIRED TO COMPLY WITH A COURT ORDER, FEDERAL OR STATE PERMITS, FEDERAL OR STATE LAWS,
AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL AGREEMENTS OF THE CITY ENTERED INTO BEFORE JUNE 1, 2016; AND FURTHER PROVIDING THAT NOT SOONER THAN JANUARY 1, 2025, STORMWATER SERVICE FEES MAY, WHEN REQUIRED TO MEET STORMWATER PROGRAM NEEDS, ALSO BE ADJUSTED
BY CITY COUNCIL BY RESOLUTION BUT ONLY BY AMOUNTS WHICH DO NOT EXCEED THE PERCENTAGE INCREASE IN THE COST OF LIVING?
After hearing that, 51 percent of respondents said they'd vote for it; 40 percent said they wouldn't and 9 percent were undecided.

After hearing more info, such as a dire warning that the city can't adequately fund other public services such as police and parks without an increase, 60 percent of respondents were convinced to vote for it.

Pollsters then tested several "vote yes" messages:
Virtually every city in America, including other cities in Colorado, funds its stormwater program through a fee assessed on residential and commercial properties. Colorado Springs does not have a stormwater fee. Since the city stormwater fee was eliminated in 2009, the city has had major problems managing the stormwater program with inadequate funding.

This problem has resulted in lawsuits being filed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment against Colorado Springs, alleging that the City has violated its water quality permit. Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas River Water Conservancy District have joined in the suit against the city.

Therefore, there is a strong need to reinstate a stormwater fee. After hearing this information…

Much More Likely .................................................. 30%
Somewhat More Likely ........................................... 21%
No Difference ......................................................... 41%
Unsure or No Opinion ............................................. 8%
As you may know, the city signed an agreement with Pueblo County last year to deliver water from the Pueblo Reservoir to the city over the next 40 to 50 years. This agreement committed the city to spend an average of $17 to $20 million dollars a year from 2016 to 2035 on stormwater infrastructure, maintenance and operations.

The city is asking voters to approve the stormwater fee so they can meet the obligations in the agreement, and secure the city’s water needs for decades to come. After hearing this information…

Much More Likely .................................................. 28%
Somewhat More Likely ........................................... 23%
No Difference ......................................................... 43%
Unsure or No Opinion ............................................. 6%
Even if voters do not approve the reinstatement of a stormwater fee, the city will still need to pay $17 to $20 million dollars each year for the next 20 years to meet its stormwater obligations. Without the fee, the $17 to $20 million dollars in stormwater obligations must come from the city’s general fund.
This will result in the City being unable to adequately fund its police force, the fire department, public works, transportation services and parks system. After hearing this information…

Much More Likely .................................................. 36%
Somewhat More Likely ........................................... 17%
No Difference ......................................................... 42%
Unsure or No Opinion ............................................. 5%
Here's the full report:

How those messages, and others listed in the poll, impacted voter sentiments:
click to enlarge MAGELLAN STRATEGIES
  • Magellan Strategies
The city levied a stormwater fee from early 2007 to the end of 2009, defunded the Stormwater Enterprise after voters approved Issue 300, which mandated the phasing out of payments between enterprises and the city. One portion of that measure and its impact is featured in a story in this week's edition of the Independent. ("Wringing more from Utilities," July 5, 2017)

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