City finance officials are preparing a report that could lead to a refund or a ballot measure asking voters to let the city keep extra money it collected in 2014. It would be the first such city measure since 2010, when voters let the city to keep $600,000 in excess revenue to fund road and bridge repairs and public safety.
Since then, the city's sales tax revenues have increased by at least $20 million, but the city has maintained that the revenue cap imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights hasn't been exceeded — until now.
The TABOR calculation focuses on property tax revenue growth and overall spending growth, and allows for an increase in revenue collections based on the Denver/Boulder/Greeley Consumer Price Index plus construction growth.
While city Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner won't disclose an estimate of excess revenue, Chief of Staff Steve Cox says it will be in the $2 million to $3 million range. An exact figure won't be known, Skinner says, until sales tax receipts for December are received in February.
Skinner says she'll discuss the matter with City Council on Jan. 12 and plans to recommend the city ask to keep the money at the April 7 city election. The other option is to simply refund the money to voters, which seems unlikely, given the city's $1 billion backlog of infrastructure needs.
Since TABOR was adopted by city voters in 1991 (and statewide in '92), voters have allowed the city to keep excess revenues seven times and have received a refund four times. Refunds have ranged from $3 to $15 per household and historically have been funneled to residents via Colorado Springs Utilities bills. Says Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman via email, "Our finance team hasn't received any information from the municipal government on a potential refund."
Among projects completed with retained funds between 1994 and 2010 are the reconfiguring of intersections of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard, as well as Eighth and Cimarron streets; the widening of Woodmen Road; Academy/Airport Road storm sewer work; and repairs to Prospect Lake.
If a measure is submitted to voters in April, it will add to a ballot that already includes the selection of a new mayor, three at-large Council members, and a member to fill the unexpired term of District 2 Councilor Joel Miller, who's running for mayor, and possibly a vote to recall Councilor Helen Collins from District 4 and elect her replacement.