Jim Czirjak 
Member since Oct 22, 2014

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Re: “Flood assessment

As we approach the end of the election cycle, there is a CENSORSHIP issue that, I feel, you should be made aware of regarding ISSUE 1B - the Stormwater issue. You know that I am a supporter of resolving our drainage infrastructure. I attended the El Pomar session and shook hands with Mr. Dave Munger afterward. I told him that I support many of the things he said but cannot support a fee-based funding mechanism. He told me about their survey - that voters actually preferred a fee over a tax. I asked to see that and did find the results on the www.pikespeakstormwater.org web site. What I found was startling and thought the public needed to see the results for themselves...and YOU need to see these results too.

When I published these results on their Facebook page, the Pikes Peak Stormwater administrators REMOVED my comments. I also commented on the video that they use showing Commissioner Glenn voicing his support. When I commented on that loop about these findings - THEY REMOVED THEM. I respect Commissioner Glenn but if I can't comment on his views given that he MAY be one of the commissioners appointed to the PPRDA board if this passes, then what does that tell you about DIRECT versus INDIRECT input to this whole effort. But I digress.

Mr. Munger, in his talk at the El Pomar session stated that voters actually supported a fee over a tax in their survey. The results below seem to back that up but there are things he is NOT telling the public.

First - even in the line of question directed at the fee in which 44% either strongly support or somewhat support the fee, a full 50% OPPOSE the fee. They didn't want anyone to see that so they removed my comments from their FB page.

Second - the math for the line of question about the sales tax approach seems to say that 40% either strongly support or somewhat support the sales tax approach. The front page of this report states that the Margin of Error for this survey is +/- 4.9%. Therefore, there is a statistical tie between the fee-based approach and the sales tax approach - but they don't want you to know that so they removed my comments from their FB page.

Third - If you look at those opposed, and pardon the colloquial phrase, but the public thinks they all suck....just that the fee-based approach sucks the least. But they didn't want you to know that so they removed my comments from their FB page.

Fourth - and most startling. For completeness the survey asked about a Public Debt funding option involving 20 year bonds to raise the necessary funding then re-pay the bonds. 53% supported that approach. That's right....53% supported that approach. BUT...in a strange move, either the polling company or the Stormwater Taskforce thought that the respondents were confused about that approach. So ONE WEEK LATER they called back those respondents who supported the public debt approach and posed 5 more questions to them that essentially poked holes in the approach and asked "would you be as likely or less likely to support that approach?" NOW..what kind of survey result is that when, one week later you call them back to ask "what did you really mean". BUT..they don't want you to know that so they removed my comments from their FB page.

This is tragic. I am concerned about the state of our infrastructure. I support a regional approach to this problem. I think there are other issues within city and county administrations that needs fixing too so that this issue is manageable over the long run. I think drainage is BASIC Infrastructure that should be funded by operating budgets supported by the tax base - not special fees. I cannot support the fee-based approach. Lastly, I certainly cannot stand attempts to CENSOR my opportunity to present these issues to the Stormwater task force and the voting population.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Jim Czirjak on 10/28/2014 at 7:45 PM

Re: “More on stormwater measure

In an attempt to counter misinformation about the Stormwater issue facing voters, the Stormwater Task Force co-chairs penned an article in the Oct 12 Gazette. After reading that article and attending the open forum sponsored by the El Pomar Foundation on 16 Oct, let me also try to clear up some information starting with the fee vs tax issue.

In their article, the co-chairs referred to a Colorado Supreme Court case, Bloom v. Breckenridge, as precedence for proceeding with the Stormwater Fee instead of some other tax. After searching for and not finding that case, I came across Bloom v. Fort Collins, 1989. In this case, the City of Fort Collins established a “Transportation Utility Fee” based on the linear frontage of developed property adjacent to a city street which is “reasonably related to expenses incurred…” by the city to maintain roads – as if there is a relationship between the frontage of developed property and the amount of pot holes that occur. The ruling also states that “mathematical exactitude is not required…” and it is basically up to the city and its legislation how it chooses to assess and collect said fee.

Following that logic, a city could assess a fee for using all the traffic signals. Someone could devise an “average usage” formula involving the average number of times a person transits through an intersection controlled by a traffic signal. Since this could be a fee and not a tax, it could be implemented without voter approval and perhaps added to all vehicle registrations for those residing in the affected jurisdiction – say City of Colorado Springs. These precedents are dangerous.

What the Colorado Supreme Court didn’t do is clearly delineate what is normal mandatory city infrastructure that should be paid for through operating budgets and collected taxes and what are clearly voluntary “user fees” with a DIRECT relationship between the user and the service provided. An example of a direct, voluntary transportation user fee is the E-470 Toll Road. If I choose to use that road instead of using I-225 to get to DIA, I pay the associate user fee. Otherwise, I can avoid that fee by using alternate routes. The key to fee versus tax should be individual voluntary usage versus mandatory provision of basic infrastructure. Drainage is a basic infrastructure – particularly in our area with such changes in elevation through the region.

Some who support the PPRDA also believe that, based on the Colorado Supreme Court decision, the funding mechanism MUST be a fee. The court case is not directive on assessing fees….it is permissive. That means, if a city can “reasonably” draw the relationship between users and affected infrastructure, the city CAN assess a special fee. The city can ALWAYS choose to fund that infrastructure by taxes; however, choosing a fee system, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled, is not a violation of State Law. Again though, the focus should be on voluntary user fees versus taxes for mandatory infrastructure. Some argue “why should we care?”…it is a small amount of money either way.

Colorado gives taxpayers direct input into the assessment of taxes through the Tax Payer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The PPRDA Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) provides for a board of directors consisting of 11 elected officials who are APPOINTED by their respective jurisdictions (except for the Mayor of Colorado Springs who is a de facto board member). This Board has the power through Super Majority to change the allocation of funds (55% capital, 35% maintenance, 10% emergency), albeit for only one year, but without direct consent of the voters. The IGA also allows for the IGA to be amended with the agreement of all parties except for addition or deletion of parties and/or territory. That means that, without direct consent of the voters, ANY OTHER PART of the IGA can be amended with the agreement of all parties – not board members – including the fee structure. This is NOT direct input from the citizens of the affected areas into the functions of the PPRDA; rather, it is indirect appointment along with the many their many other duties. For the citizens to have a direct say in how to fund PPRDA, a tax method following TABOR should be the preferred solution. This, however, is not being offered for a vote.

Drainage is vital piece of basic infrastructure. I agree with the regional approach. I agree that it needs to be fixed. I don’t agree with the funding mechanism selected. Drainage is so important that it should be considered a basic part of city and county infrastructure to the point that it is funded and protected out of operating budgets and collected taxes and controlled directly by the voters - and NOT by a special fee. I do not want the precedence set in El Paso County or the City of Colorado Springs that we permit the use of fees for basic infrastructure.

6 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Jim Czirjak on 10/22/2014 at 8:40 PM

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