Former Mayor Lionel Rivera says the city has “plenty of options” to fund stormwater, which the city has largely put off since the City Council put a bullet between the eyes of the Stormwater Enterprise.
But one of the options suggested by Rivera — a tax increase — probably won’t see the light of day.
That’s because Mayor Steve Bach signed a no-tax pledge before he was elected.
Bach has sounded the alarm on the city’s half-billion-dollar stormwater needs and wants the City Council to look for inefficiencies at Colorado Springs Utilities to help pay for them.
Stormwater is responsibility of the city government that’s placed under the authority of the mayor.
“There are plenty of options, but difficult ones if you pledged not to support a tax increase,” Rivera said in an email.
Of all the City Council members who ran for office last year, only Councilwoman Angela Dougan signed the pledge, which was issued by the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
The previous council eliminated the Stormwater Enterprise in December 2009 following the passage of ballot Issue 300. The vote was 5-4. Rivera was among the four council members who opposed eliminating the enterprise.
Here is the full text of Rivera’s email, with a few minor edits:
The mayor, with the support of City Council, can put a stormwater department in place with a similar fee as the enterprise and accomplish it through the legislative process. It wouldn’t be an enterprise, but it would subject to TABOR.
He could ask the City Council to develop a rate structure through (Colorado Springs Utilities) to support paying for stormwater infrastructure. Even if there are cost savings that could pay for stormwater, he would have to advocate using the cost savings verses reducing rates.
If a small mill levy is the answer, then he would have to advocate for a tax increase.
The only way to get this done without a fee or tax increase is to grow municipal revenues or create efficiencies of $16 million annually in the municipal budget. I use $16 million because that is what the SWE fee generated.
If City Council can squeeze some savings from CSU and agree to cover some of the costs, then they would need to have a rate hearing to create the tariffs to justify and use the funds. The public would probably view this as a rate increase.
There are plenty of options, but difficult ones if you pledged not to support a tax increase.