Councilwoman touts benefits of property tax hike

August 27, 2009

Colorado Springs Councilwoman Jan Martin implored voters Thursday to support a property tax increase in November or live in a city with shuttered pools and community centers, brown parks, diminished transit services and fewer police officers and firefighters.

“It’s really the heart and soul of our community that is at stake,” Martin said after kicking off her “A City Worth Fighting For” campaign outside the Pioneers Museum, which also is on the chopping block in the city’s 2010 budget.

Martin wants city voters to increase the property tax mill levy by 10 mills over five years, with six mills in the first year. A mill is $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

In an interview with The Gazette, Martin explained why she’s spearheading the proposal. Here are edited excerpts of the interview.

Question: What trade-offs do voters need to consider? In other words, spend more money or what?

Answer: There’s a whole list of things I can go through. Close seven city pools. Close Rock Ledge Ranch. Close six community centers. Cut all city transit funding, (leaving) only RTA funding, which amounts to 62,000 hours of transit. Cut back transit from a 30-minute wait to a 1-hour wait. Cut 35 firefighters. Cut 25 police officers. The list goes on and on and on.

Q: How far will your proposal go in stabilizing the city’s finances? Will you be back in five years to ask voters for more money?

A: I can only worry about 2010 right now because the cuts are so drastic. This was designed specifically — and that’s why we have the six mills in year one — to cover the $25.4 million shortfall for 2010. We’ve added one more mill to the next four years to help with whatever direction this economy takes, but this doesn’t solve all the city problems.

Q: In July, there were 25,272 unemployed people in the Colorado Springs metro area. How do you persuade those people who are unemployed and struggling to pay their bills to support a tax increase?

A: I have to say that I’m very well aware of the economic crisis that this city is in and the individuals who are suffering from that. But I want this city to be in a position to recover when the recovery comes... The best thing we can do right now is to keep the city in a position to recover as soon as possible so we can get those people back to work.

Q: Conventional wisdom in Colorado Springs is that a tax that isn’t for a specific purpose is pretty much doomed. What makes you think your proposal has any chance?

A: I believe in the citizens of Colorado Springs, and I believe the question is not how much money are we going to spend here and there. But the question is, ‘What quality of life do we want?’ — and that includes all city services.

Q: There’s speculation out there that you’re behind this campaign because you’re setting your sights on a run for mayor. Is that true? If not, do you plan to run for mayor?

A: It’s easy for me to answer that question. I’m doing this for one reason and one reason only. It’s because I care a great deal about this city. My political future is the last thing on my mind right now.

Q: But are you considering running for mayor in the future?

A: I haven’t even given it a thought.

Q: That’s a typical politician’s answer.

A: (laughs)

Call the writer at 476-1623



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