Monday, June 22, 2020

COS Council gets briefed on plastic bag, excess revenue ballot measures

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2020 at 12:43 PM

click to enlarge Mayor John Suthers calls for a ballot measure to retain excess revenue and reset the revenue cap. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mayor John Suthers calls for a ballot measure to retain excess revenue and reset the revenue cap.
Colorado Springs voters could be faced with several ballot measures during the Nov. 3 election.

City Council today, June 22, was to discuss three potential issues and vote in coming weeks whether to refer them to the ballot.

• TABOR retention and exemption measure — Mayor John Suthers wants voters to allow the city to keep $1.9 million collected above revenue limits imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, and also prevent the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic to reset the TABOR cap at a lower rate. The Council's backup material explains it like this:
Under Charter § 7-90 (g), the City’s authorized change in fiscal year spending and property tax revenues are both limited to inflation plus City growth, and any voter approved changes. Under Colo. Const. Art. X, § 20 (7) (b), City spending is similarly limited to inflation plus local growth and any voter approved revenue changes. The Finance Department has determined that the City’s 2019 revenues have exceeded or will be determined to exceed these limitations by approximately $1.9 million, and that there is a potential for property tax revenues to exceed the property tax revenue limitation in 2020 due to the 2019 reassessment, unless the voters approve the retention and spending of such revenues.

Due to the economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is anticipated that City revenues and sales tax revenues in particular, will be down substantially for 2020, and likely substantially below the revenues that would be allowed to be retained and spent. However, because under TABOR, the following year’s revenue and spending limitations are based upon the prior year’s actual revenues or allowed revenues, whichever is lower, plus growth and inflation, the TABOR limits would be effectively lowered below the 2019 level and possibly prior levels. This effect during periods of economic recession has been called “ratcheting down”.

The Resolution before City Council would present a question to the voters, allowing the City to retain and spend the 2019 and 2020 revenues, as well as resetting the revenue limitations for 2021 and later years based upon the higher of the 2019 or 2020 revenues.

There is no tax increase of any kind associated with this ballot measure.
Councilor Yolanda Avila: Proposing a fee on plastic bags. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Councilor Yolanda Avila: Proposing a fee on plastic bags.
It's unclear if these two questions would meet the single-subject requirement for ballot measures.

• A measure, proposed by Councilor Yolanda Avila, would charge consumers 10 cents per single use plastic bag. It's described like this in Council backup materials:
Upon passage of the question by the voters, beginning July 1, 2021, stores may sell single use plastic carryout bags to customers for ten cents ($0.10) per bag. Bag fees are to be split sixty percent (60%) to the City and forty percent (40%) to the store. The City will use the bag fees for administrative costs, funding clean up events in the City’s parks, rights-of way and other public properties, educational activities related to the environment, programs and infrastructure to reduce waste, and mitigation of the effects of waste in the City’s public spaces. The store would use the fees for the purposes set forth in the Code provisions, including educational efforts related to the fee, administration and signage.
• Protect Our Parks — This measure has been in the making since 2018, but it's not listed under the ballot measures heading on today's Council agenda, but rather is labeled "Items Under Study."

Advocates want the city to refer a measure to the ballot that would require the city to gain voter approval to sell or trade away park land, as the city did in 2016 when it traded the 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor hotel. Advocates have had a hard time, though, convincing Council to simply let voters weigh in on such a measure.

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