Voters were roundly boosting Colorado Springs’ parks and infrastructure budget Tuesday night as preliminary results of the election showed city residents approving a tax retention question and renewing a longstanding sales tax.
Leading with about 57% of the 100,399 votes counted for citywide question 2B, Colorado Springs can likely retain up to $7 million in excess tax revenue to improve the city’s parks and trails, unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office show.
Question 2C also led with 64.9% of the 100,182 votes counted, renewing a five-year sales tax initially approved in 2015 to fund road repairs throughout the city, results show.
El Paso County voters turned out in high numbers for the coordinated election, Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said. By Tuesday night 154,265 ballots had been tallied of the 463,841 ballots that were mailed to voters.
"We have record turnout," Broerman said. "We just eclipsed our record from 2017 of 152,000 votes."
Earlier in the week, Broerman said he anticipated a total of about 165,000 ballots to be counted, amounting to about 42% voter turnout.
While the vote tallies are subject to change because ballots are still being counted, city officials wasted no time in celebrating their almost-certain victories on the ground floor of Phantom Canyon, 2 E. Pikes Peak Ave., as early vote counts were released.
“Look mayoral,” City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler yelled to Mayor John Suthers as he stood atop a bench to say a few words.
“Give the General Palmer pose,” local developer Chris Jenkins joked.
The approval of both questions represents a great night for Colorado Springs because - thanks to the voters - the city can improve critical parks and infrastructure, Suthers said.
In 2015, the city had a $1.5 billion infrastructure deficit, Suthers said.
“We could not solve that problem without the help of the voters and anybody who said otherwise was dead wrong,” he said.
So, the progress to come is all thanks to those who entrusted the city by approving 2B and 2C, he said.
The results were unsurprising. Early polling for 2B showed 60% voter approval, Suthers has said. And voters initially approved 2C in 2015 by a two-to-one margin.
The city’s ageing parks are no secret. Parks Director Karen Palus has been chipping away at a $100 million parks maintenance backlog for years and her budget remains well below pre-recession levels.
But still, the newly approved $7 million boost is a step in the right direction, Palus said Tuesday night.
“There are some really great projects on the list,” she said. “We can’t wait to get started.
The largest portion of the money, $2 million, is slated for Colorado Springs’ historic parks: Antlers, Acacia and Alamo Square/Pioneers Museum. Plans for those parks include better lighting and accessibility.
Remaining allotments of the money include:
- $1 million for pond and pavilion restorations and lighting improvements at Monument Valley Park.
- $1 million for work on the Homestead, Mesa and Sand Creek trails.
- $1.4 million to convert three baseball fields to turf at Cottonwood Creek Community Park.
Additional work will be done at Palmer, Boulder, Thorndale and Panorama parks, the Leon Young Sports Complex and the city’s cemeteries.
Of the remaining maintenance backlog, Palus said: “We’ll just keep nibbling out the different projects that we think are important to the community.
As for the city’s roads, Suthers and many other city officials have openly acknowledged for years that they would seek to renew the tax. The mayor even mentioned it during his campaign for a second term.
By many metrics, the initiative has succeeded. Signs advertising road work funded by the tax are peppered throughout the city’s streets and revenues exceeded the initial $250 million expected over the first five years.
“We fulfilled every promise to the voters, exceeded them,” Public Works Director Travis Easton said.
Between 2015 and 2018, pothole complaints received by the city were cut in half and damage complaints filed against the city due to the roads were reduced by 93 percent, Easton said.
The tax’s second term will charge a lower rate of 5.7 cents on every $10 spent rather than the original 6.2 cents. The new rate will take effect after the first term of the tax expires on Dec. 31, 2020.
Over the next five years, half that tax revenue will be spent on residential streets, Suthers said.
City streets on deck for the next five years of repairs and construction can be found online at coloradosprings.gov/2c.