Fountain residents might see a question on the Nov. 5 ballot asking them to approve a 0.35% sales tax increase for local road projects.
The City Council is to vote Aug. 13 on whether the measure, proposed by a citizen advisory group, will be referred to the ballot. The new tax would amount to 35 cents for every $100 spent.
The city needs the revenue to complete transportation projects that voters approved in 2008 when they OK’d the “Moving Fountain Forward” tax, said Jennifer Herzberg, chairwoman of the Fountain Roadway Focus Group.
“Throughout the country, funding for roadway infrastructure is a real challenge,” Herzberg said. “That’s certainly true in Fountain.”
Moving Fountain Forward’s 0.75% sales tax funds transit, street maintenance and 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, Herzberg said.
The ballot initiative 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%. It would also allow the city to issue up to $10 million in bonds to finance those projects without having to wait for that revenue to come in.
The 2008 measure did not seek voter approval for a bond issue. By the time the city had the money to work on a few of the projects, the cost estimates had increased because the economy had recovered from the Great Recession, Herzberg said.
Plus, funding for transportation projects hasn’t kept up with the city’s growth, she said.
City officials estimate that the remaining projects would cost $4.5 million to finish, said Fountain Community Engagement Manager John Trylch. The upgrades would improve a railroad crossing near Comanche Village Drive and U.S. 85/87, build a new crossing to connect Indiana Avenue with U.S. 85/87 and construct a roundabout at Ohio Avenue and Jimmy Camp Road.
A survey promoted on the city’s Facebook page, answered by about 450 people, showed that about 300 of them would support a sales tax increase for road repairs, Trylch reported. Nearly a third of those who were in favor said they preferred a 0.35% increase. Others said they preferred a 0.7% or 1% increase.
Fountain’s current total sales tax rate is 7.88%, including taxes levied by the state and El Paso County, Trylch said.
In addition, businesses in the city’s South Academy Highlands shopping area are charged a 1% tax by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which funds road projects in jurisdictions including Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Fountain is not a member of the PPRTA, but the shopping area still pays that tax because the property was annexed into Fountain from a jurisdiction that is part of the authority, Trylch said.