Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Colorado Springs council's votes on fees, roads increase divide with mayor

By Monica Mendoza Updated: June 25, 2014 at 5:34 am

Votes on a budget item and business license fees Tuesday deepened the divide between the Colorado Springs City Council and the mayor.

In one move, the council denied Mayor Steve Bach's request to transfer $2 million from the roads and technology projects into the Information Technology department, something Bach said was an urgent need.

In a second vote, the council eliminated most business license fees - a move Bach said he will be forced to veto.

Both moves leave the city where it was before the votes. The council decided to stick with the original capital improvement budget and not transfer money to a troubled IT department. Council members said they needed more information on why the money should be taken from a paving project on Academy Boulevard and a software system for municipal courts and be diverted to IT.

"I haven't gotten a sense of urgency of what the needs are," said council member Jill Gaebler. "If there is more information there, I would love to hear it."

Bach said the council was briefed about the IT department issues in closed session two weeks ago. He added that he had not heard questions or concerns from council members about the issue.

"There is no rationale for the decision they made, except political," he said.

There was no mention among council members of the recent internal investigation into the IT department. Some council members expressed concern that the IT department chief of security recently left the position.

Ten IT employees were placed on paid administrative leave in January and eventually were asked to take "reduction in force packages." The chief of IT left in April after a little more than a year on the job.

On the issue of business license fees, Bach said he would veto the council's ordinances that eliminate fees on most of the city licenses. The council split 5-4 on the vote, with six votes required to override a mayoral veto.

The proposal by council member Helen Collins included four ordinances that end fees ranging from $15 to $515. Fees would remain for liquor licenses and permits of all types, as well as those paid to the city by medical marijuana dispensaries.

Collins said scrapping the fees will attract more small businesses to the area.

"We will have more businesses moving into the city," she said. "We will be unique - and there will be more revenue into the city."

Bach opposed the ordinances. He said the City Council did not discuss how the city could make up the lost fee revenue - which was $384,700 last year and $156,538 in the first four months of this year.

City Clerk Sarah Johnson said her office plans a comprehensive review of the city licensing program, including the fee structure. She urged the council to postpone its vote until September and consider the whole program at one time.

Council President Keith King supported the elimination of the fees. He said when he started his business in the 1970s he faced more than 35 taxes and fees. He promised to do away with such fees, if given a chance.

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