Colorado Springs officials might soon ask residents if the city can retain up to $7 million in excess tax revenue to improve the city’s parks and trails.
The city collected more than expected last year from the sales and use tax, the Highway Users Tax Fund and state grant funding, said Chief Financial Officer Charae McDaniel.
Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — also known as TABOR — caps the amount of tax revenue governments can keep each year using a formula based on population growth and inflation. Revenue over that cap can only be kept with the blessing of voters; without that, they would receive a refund.
The city has nearly $7 million in excess revenue sitting in a restricted general fund account, McDaniel said. A TABOR retention question could be placed on the state’s coordinated election ballot in November.
Mayor John Suthers offered his thoughts to the council last week on what voters might approve. Tying the question around the city’s upcoming 150th anniversary in 2021 might be wise, Suthers said.
“The things that we win are infrastructure and parks,” Suthers said. “I suggest we go with a sesquicentennial parks package … with a major emphasis on Palmer legacy parks.”
The city’s legacy parks include Acacia, Antlers and Alamo Square downtown.
Suthers said master plans are underway for those three downtown parks, with a list of suggestions on what can be improved.
“Monument Valley needs a lot of work with the increasing population downtown, I really think that can be restored … close to its initial luster with lighting, those ponds can be refurbished, the historical pavilion there needs a lot of work,” Suthers said. “Cottonwood Creek desperately needs artificial turf. It’s a heavily, heavily used athletic area.”
Asphalt on the Legacy Loop, Sand Creek and Mesa trails has deteriorated, and concrete could be laid to restore them, Suthers said.
Parks Director Karen Palus confirmed several suggestions mentioned by Suthers but said much of that decision rests with the council, which has the authority to place questions on the city’s ballots.
Council President Richard Skorman said the group appears receptive to the idea. A simple majority is needed to place a question on the ballot.
“We’re all very concerned about, especially, some of the older parks that have been languishing for a long time and in disrepair,” Skorman said. “We’re hoping that this is something that would spread the love throughout the city, that every area benefits by it.”
Next week, Palus said she will present the council with a list of potential projects the money could back. It’s not immediately clear just how far $7 million could stretch, she said.
“It all depends on the projects and the bids that we can get,” Palus said. “We work really hard to try and leverage our funds whenever we can with private funds, grant funds, whatever’s available.”
Council members might have specific suggestions for park upgrades or other tweaks to Palus’ list, Skorman said. They also could propose an entirely different question to retain the excess revenue.