Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Audience counters Douglas Bruce at election forum

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 4:28 PM

click to enlarge Mayor John Suthers makes his case for stormwater fees at a forum Oct. 17. John Hazlehurst, right, with the Colorado Springs Business Journal, emceed the evening. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mayor John Suthers makes his case for stormwater fees at a forum Oct. 17. John Hazlehurst, right, with the Colorado Springs Business Journal, emceed the evening.

UPDATE: Anthony Carlson, who's working on the "vote yes" campaign for the Colorado Springs School District 11 issue, just notified us of what he says were inaccuracies stated at the forum.

Here is his email in full:

Doug [Bruce] was pretty adamant about only presenting the "facts" last night, but one key fact he got wrong was what District 11 asked for in 2016.

Last year D-11 asked for a 32.6 million dollar mill levy, which would've phased in over 6 years and become more expensive for tax payers over time.

Additionally, last year the District had a 235 million dollar bond on the ballot which would have raised taxes by 15.5 million dollar annually.

In 2016 the District asked for a 48.1 million dollar increase.

This year the District is asking for a 42 million dollar mill levy, which will not phase in. However, due to the debt reduction mechanism in the ballot language will become cheaper for tax payers over time. For a home of [$]200,000 it will be about $14 a month in 2018, but for that same home will only be $6 a month by 2022.

The District's proposal for the 2017 mill is 6 million dollars less than the proposals put on the ballot in 2016.

I've attached the TABOR notice from last year to dispute Doug's claim.

——ORIGINAL POST 10:56 A.M. WEDNESDAY, OCT. 18, 2017——————————-

Douglas Bruce, the father of tax limitation in Colorado, got a taste of his own medicine on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 17. Bruce was at the Leadership Pikes Peak forum on two ballot issues, which was held at the MCI/Verizon building on Garden of the Gods Road.

Before launching into his opposition argument to Colorado Springs School District 11's proposed mill levy override, known as 3E on the ballot, Bruce tried to correct something Mayor John Suthers had said moments before. Suthers was arguing in favor of the city's stormwater fee proposal, which would impose fees of $5 per household and $30 per acre for developed property. The fees would raise $17 million a year starting July 1, 2018, if approved, and fund 71 drainage projects across the city.

In his parting shot, Suthers had reminded the roughly 60 people who attended that Colorado Springs' property taxes are among the lowest of any city in the state.
click to enlarge Laura Carno argued against stormwater fees, saying people are tapped out.
  • Laura Carno argued against stormwater fees, saying people are tapped out.
Bruce said Suthers was wrong, that Colorado Springs actually has the highest sales tax rate in the state, at 8.25 percent. But a member of the audience quickly called Bruce on that, saying Suthers hadn't made a claim about sales tax. Bruce disputed that but was interrupted by a man in the audience, who blurted out, "You're undermining your own credibility."

A few sentences later, when Bruce claimed the D-11 measure was triple the size of its $15 million measure on the 2016 ballot, a woman in the crowd interjected, "That's not correct. It's $42 million."

To which Bruce replied, "I realize I have a hostile audience."

It's unclear if that was true. The only measure of voter sentiment that counts will come on Nov. 7.

Suthers hopes Election Day will bring a victory for the stormwater fee, which he says is sorely needed so that the $17 million a year now spent on stormwater will be freed up to fund the city's other "critical" needs, including 100 to 125 more police officers.

He also said passage of the measure, which would levy fees for 20 years, would help the city get out from under a lawsuit filed by the EPA alleging violations of the Clean Water Act, due largely to the city's neglected stormwater system.

"I have had discussions with the EPA," he said. "If we can go to them and show we have a dedicated revenue stream for stormwater, the chances of resolving the case are very good."

But Laura Carno, a political activist who champions conservative causees, called the fees inequitable, because a person living in an apartment will pay the same $5 a month that a person living in a mansion will pay.

Lastly, she noted that some property owners in the city who own undeveloped land might pay nothing. "City Council member Jill Gaebler says nobody should get a pass, and I agree with Gaebler."

On the D-11 issue, advocate Lauren Hug said D-11 hasn't had a tax increase since 2000. To drive home how long that is, she asked the audience to consider all the technological changes that have happened since then, including the smart phone's advancement.

"D-11 needs money to provide 21st century education," she says, adding that many D-11 buildings are 50 years old and older. She also noted teachers need raises, or D-11 risks losing them to other districts or states, in light of the nationwide teacher shortage.

Hug also urged voters to support the measure to assure their property values don't plunge and to invest in making the city attractive for economic development.

But Bruce took issue, saying, "This isn't an investment, because you never get your money back." He also said D-11's enrollment is stagnant and there's no need for additional money.

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