Did Bruce misfire with latest assault on stormwater fee?

DEAN TODA Updated: September 29, 2009 at 12:00 am • Published: September 29, 2009

Patricia Kelly says Douglas Bruce may have missed his mark with his November ballot proposal.

Kelly, the city attorney for Colorado Springs, said Tuesday that she thinks it’s possible to interpret Issue 300, a Bruce-engineered ballot initiative intended to halt the collection of fees by the city’s Stormwater Enterprise, as inapplicable to that agency.

In an e-mailed statement, Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, the spokeswoman for the city government, confirmed that Kelly replied to a question about Bruce’s latest assault on the stormwater fee that “Issue 300 could be subject to interpretation. One interpretation is that Issue 300 does not call out Stormwater.”

Blumberg said Kelly stood by her remark.

Kelly did not respond to a voice mail seeking further comment, but issued a statement through Blumberg declining to explain why Bruce’s measure might not apply to the Stormwater Enterprise. State law, Kelly said, prohibits a response “because there is an active ballot item before the public.”

But City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher said Kelly had advised council that while Issue 300 would indeed stop payments from enterprises to the city, “the stormwater enterprise pays no money to the city.” The fees the enterprise collects are plowed back into the storm drainage system, he said.

Heimlicher said the only enterprise that might be affected was Colorado Springs Utilities. Other city enterprises include Memorial Hospital, a parking authority, two municipal golf courses, two public cemeteries and the Pikes Peak Highway.

Blumberg said the city had not taken an official position on the meaning of Issue 300.

“There has not been an analysis or strategy done by the city on Issue 300,” she said in her statement, which also noted that the City Council has scheduled a meeting next Tuesday to “review resolutions” regarding Issue 300 and 2C, a proposed tax increase that will also be on the November ballot.

Bruce, a former state representative and longtime anti-tax crusader, said the notion that Issue 300 doesn’t apply to the Stormwater Enterprise was “preposterous.”

“In desperation, the city council is floating a trial balloon to see if it can find an excuse to disregard the plain language of Issue 300, which prohibits ‘loans, gifts, and subsidies between an enterprise and the city,’ such as the Stormwater Enterprise performing work on city-owned infrastructure,” Bruce said.   “The public will be justly outraged if the city government defies the will of the  voters who pass Issue 300.”

Issue 300 doesn’t mention the Stormwater Enterprise by name. But it would phase out “all enterprise payments to the city” other than “sales and use taxes forwarded from enterprise customers.”

The Stormwater Enterprise was created as a vehicle to raise money for improvements to the city’s storm sewer system. The enterprise was given authority to collect fees from property owners calculated on the amount of stormwater runoff they produce.

Many Colorado Springs residents regard the stormwater fees as taxes that violate a constitutional ban on tax increases unless they are approved by voters.

Contact the writer at 476-1654

 

 

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