Election officials have mailed ballots to El Paso County’s more than 400,000 active, registered voters for the Nov. 5 election, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office said Tuesday.
Voters, who should receive their ballots this week, will be asked to weigh in on an array of state and local issues this election season.
Two statewide initiatives, propositions DD and CC, would legalize sports betting and permanently remove Colorado’s revenue cap under the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, respectively.
Measures in Manitou Springs and Fountain would increase sales taxes, while a Colorado Springs ballot question asks to extend an existing sales tax.
In addition, Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs want permission from voters to keep extra revenues that would otherwise have to be returned to taxpayers because of TABOR, which ties year-to-year increases in government revenues to population growth and inflation.
Area electors will also choose a mayor of Manitou Springs, new City Council members in Fountain and Manitou Springs and candidates to fill school board seats across the county.
Local highlights from the ballot:
Colorado Springs voters will decide whether the city can extend its 2015 sales tax increase for road improvements and whether it can keep $7 million of excess tax revenue.
Ballot Issue 2C would extend a sales tax increase first approved by voters in 2015, albeit at a lower rate. The five-year program currently taxes 6.2 cents on every $10 purchase, raising millions each year for road improvements. The new ballot initiative would extend the tax another five years at 5.7 cents on every $10 spent.
City officials estimate the extended tax would pay to improve 884 lane miles in the city, while the original five-year tax has funded more than 1,000 lane miles.
Ballot Issue 2B would allow the city to keep $7 million to improve and maintain city parks. The largest chunk of that money would go to the city’s historic parks: Antlers, Acacia and the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum’s Alamo Square.
If voters shoot down 2B, the average household would receive a refund of about $30, delivered on their utility bills.
Alan Delwiche, the chairman of the city’s planning commission, and John Graham, former publisher of the now-defunct Pikes Peak Journal, are contending to succeed Manitou Springs Mayor Ken Jaray.
Jaray, who’s finishing his first term, said this summer that he would not seek reelection.
In addition to the two mayoral hopefuls, Manitou voters will also see two city measures on their ballots.
One question, Ballot Issue 2D, will ask voters to pass a Manitou Arts, Culture and Heritage (MACH) sales tax that would amount to 3 cents on a $10 purchase and generate about $400,000 annually. That money would fund grants for local creative and cultural programs and projects and pay for upgrades to the Carnegie Library, Miramont Castle Museum, historic Hiawatha Gardens building and Manitou art and heritage centers.
Manitou’s overall sales tax rate recently fell by 0.3% when one tax, passed more than a decade ago to fund downtown improvements, sunset at the end of 2018, according to Manitou Art Center Executive Director Natalie Johnson.
Another ballot measure, Issue 2E, would allow the city to keep nearly $183,000 — money generated by the expired tax that was leftover after the city repaid all the bonds to fund downtown projects. Manitou would use the extra revenue to maintain the downtown upgrades, Jaray has said.
If voters reject Issue 2E, Manitou property owners will get a one-time rebate on their tax bills. For a home valued at $400,000, that rebate would amount to about $75, according to the mayor.
In Fountain, voters will be asked to OK a 0.7% sales tax, or about 70 cents on every $100 spent.
Revenue from the tax would pay for transportation upgrades, including improvements to major thoroughfares and neighborhood streets.
In 2009, city voters approved a 0.75% sales tax, known as Moving Fountain Forward, to pay for transit, street maintenance and other improvement projects. The 0.35% portion of that tax used for road upgrades, which brings in about $1 million annually, will sunset at the end of the year, according to Jennifer Herzberg, chairwoman of the Fountain Roadway Focus Group.
This year’s ballot initiative, Issue 2A, would ask voters to renew that 0.35% tax for 10 years and double it, bringing the total sales tax for transportation projects to 1.1%.
The new sales tax revenue will allow the city to finish existing projects and start new ones, proponents say.
Priority projects include improving a railroad crossing near Comanche Village Drive and U.S. 85/87, building a new crossing to connect Indiana Avenue with U.S. 85 / 87 and constructing a roundabout at Ohio Avenue and Jimmy Camp Road, city officials told The Gazette in August.
Local school districts
Three Pikes Peak region school districts will present ballot questions.
Lewis-Palmer D-38 in Monument is asking voters for a $28.985 million bond issue to build an elementary school in Jackson Creek. If approved, the district then would use district reserve money to convert Bear Creek Elementary School back to its original function as a middle school.
Calhan RJ-1 is requesting up to $15.8 million in bond sales to increase security in learning areas, build a shop and welding bays to expand the existing Career and Technical Education center, add flexible performing arts space, relocate the athletic fields and make other changes so a unified campus concept can continue and students don’t have to cross Calhan Highway.
Miami-Yoder JT-60 is seeking voter approval to remove the four-year term limit for all five school board seats.
Dozens of candidates are seeking contested school board seats in districts throughout the county, including Colorado Springs School District 11, Lewis-Palmer D-38, Academy D-20, Widefield D-3 and Peyton 23-JT.
Five districts in El Paso County have no contested school board seats or ballot measures and will not participate in the election: Cheyenne Mountain D-12, Edison JT-54, Fountain-Fort Carson D-8, Harrison D-2 and Manitou Springs D-14.
Fire protection districts and other taxing entities, too, have questions for voters.
Voters in the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District will decide whether the district is allowed to adjust its mill levy annually so that property tax revenues remain steady, even as the statewide residential assessment rate is periodically adjusted to maintain compliance with state law.
There’s a similar measure for Peyton Fire Protection District, which is also seeking voter permission to borrow up to $2.5 million and increase taxes up to $325,000 annually to build a new station and fund other improvements.
Hanover Fire Protection District is asking for another tax increase to maintain 911 response times and meet staffing and equipment needs.
A trio of measures for Stratmoor Hills fire protection, water and sanitation districts would nix the districts’ TABOR revenue cap, allowing the districts to retain and spend revenues generated over the limit in future years instead of returning that excess to taxpayers.