The Colorado Springs City Council is mulling some tough policy decisions about the future of the Stormwater Enterprise that could derail plans to ask voters next November to approve the creation of a regional stormwater authority to oversee drainage projects.
Councilman Darryl Glenn, who is spearheading the effort to create a voter-approved stormwater authority, said his plans would go down the drain if the city filed tax liens against delinquent property owners and didn’t end the Stormwater Enterprise right away.
“I’ve got some definite deal breakers,” he said.
“I’m not going to support liens, and I want it to end right now,” Glenn said. “I don’t think we should send out fees for 2010…I don’t know how you do that when you’re going to bill them for something that they just rejected.”
The uncertainty surrounding the Stormwater Enterprise stems from Issue 300, an initiative sponsored by anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce that phases out enterprise payments to the city. According to Bruce, the ballot measure, which has been called confusing and ambiguous, requires the immediate end of the Stormwater Enterprise.
Most council members were initially adamant that Issue 300, approved by voters Nov. 3, didn’t affect the Stormwater Enterprise. But days after the election, they said it was the intent of the voters to do away with it.
But exactly when to pull the plug and what to do about the small percentage of people who haven’t paid their fees remains unresolved.
Some council members think the enterprise should be phased out over eight years. Others think it should be done faster. Like Bruce, Glenn thinks it should be done immediately.
“I’m a pretty good predictor of what my colleagues are going to do,” Glenn said. “I don’t see them immediately wanting to phase that out. In my opinion, I think that the intent of the voters was to get rid of it now.”
Glenn doesn’t support amnesty for delinquent property owners, but he said filing tax liens against property owners sends the wrong message.
“There are other ways to collect from people who haven’t paid, whether it’s through collections or whatever,” he said. “When you put a lien on somebody’s property, that’s a tax. That functions as a tax. I think it violates the spirit of what we’re trying to do.”
Another unresolved issue: stormwater projects in the pipeline.
“In talking with some people on staff, some of the projects that are out there, (such as the Templeton Gap floodway project), they can only finish that project if they bill for 2010 and part of 2011. If that’s the case, you’re missing your window to be able to put something on the November 2010 election,” he said.
“I think council is in a box here,” Glenn added.
It’s unclear whether the council will pick up its ongoing conversation about the future of the Stormwater Enterprise at its Nov. 23 informal meeting or at its formal meeting the following day.
“Don’t know yet,” city spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg said in an e-mail. “It is not presently on the agenda.”