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Ballot Issue 2A (Nov. 7, 2017 election) FAQs

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Colorado Springs voters approved in the November 2017 Special Coordinated Election implementation of a stormwater fee that will take effect July 1, 2018. The fee will serve as a dedicated source to provide sustainable funding to meet capital construction needs, maintenance and operation of the stormwater system, and costs of administration and enforcement of its MS4 Permit. 

You can find a list of stormwater projects and an interactive map on the stormwater projects page.

FAQs

Why do we need a fee to pay for stormwater?

Colorado Springs grew very quickly in the last half of the 20th Century.  With that growth came a lot of impervious surfaces which has dramatically increased the volume and rate of flow of stormwater runoff.  Also, when user fee funding of the City’s stormwater enterprise was eliminated in 2009, during the worst days of the Great Recession, the City experienced substantial diminution of revenues and was forced to dramatically cut stormwater spending. All of these circumstances have increased the risks within and outside of the City for serious flooding and have been a factor leading to enforcement litigation being brought against the City by the EPA and the State of Colorado. 
The City is legally required to conduct a federal and state mandated stormwater program to comply with the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit (MS4 Permit).  The stormwater program involves meeting capital construction needs such as detention facilities, the maintenance and operation of the stormwater system, and costs of administration and enforcement of the MS4 Permit. This includes holding developers accountable for their drainage obligations.
Today, we remain one of the only major cities in the United States that does not have a dedicated stormwater funding source and that funds its stormwater program with general funds derived from taxes.  As a result, the City has had to decrease funds available for other essential City services, including police and fire protection.
By creating a dedicated stormwater funding source through a fee on residential utility bills, the City is assured of sustainable funding to meet its legal and contractual obligations without depleting the City’s general fund. This will allow other public needs to be better met.

How much would the stormwater fee be for homes and other residences?

All residential units, regardless of their size, will be assessed a $5 per dwelling unit monthly fee.

What is the fee structure for non-residential (i.e. Commercial or Non-Profit) property?

The monthly fee for developed or improved non-residential property is $30 per acre. In calculating this fee for larger non-residential parcels over 5 acres, undeveloped land and large grassed areas will not be counted as they do not significantly contribute to stormwater runoff.
Will non-residential customers with less than an acre be billed a minimum $30 fee or will their fees be prorated based on actual size of property?  

Non-residential customers will be billed according to their prorated acreage on a ratio of $30/acre. For example, a 0.5 commercial acre will be billed a fee of $15 per month.

How would the fee be collected?

Residential utility customers will see it on their utility bills.  Non-residential users will be separately billed.

When will the stormwater fee go into effect and how long will it be in effect?

The stormwater fee will go into effect July 1, 2018 and will sunset after 20 years on June 30, 2038. 

How much money will be raised annually through this fee?

The fee is projected to raise approximately $9 million in 2018 since implementation begins July 1, 2018. In future years, the fee is expected to raise $17-20 million annually.

Will the fees collected be used only for stormwater?

Yes. The ballot question and ordinance imposing the fees mandates that the fees be used only for the stormwater program: stormwater capital needs, operation and maintenance, MS4 Permit compliance, and compliance with intergovernmental agreements entered into before June 1, 2016. This last item specifically covers stormwater obligations for projects located in Colorado Springs which were agreed to with Pueblo County in order to assure that the City could use its Southern Delivery System pipeline water supply from Pueblo reservoir.
Additionally, an oversight committee will be appointed to oversee operations, revenues and expenditures for the stormwater fee to ensure funds are used in accordance with the ordinance imposing the fee.
Why is this fee being collected through Colorado Springs Utilities for residential customers? Billing by Colorado Springs Utilities is the most cost-effective solution for residential fee collection as it already has a mechanism in place to bill residents for services.

If I don’t live in Colorado Springs but my utility service provider is Colorado Springs Utilities will I have to pay the fee?

No, the fee only applies to properties within the geographic city limits of Colorado Springs. 

How will residents be billed if they don’t receive a utility bill because their utilities are included in their rent?

Multifamily properties with only one water meter will be assessed the fee as a non-residential property at $30 per acre, per month. Whether or not a landlord will  pass the fee on to the tenants depends upon lease terms, the discretion of the landlord and other factors not within the control of the City. 

Now that the stormwater fee is approved, where will the general fund money currently allocated for stormwater be directed?

Current stormwater projects and programs will continue to be funded through the City’s general fund until the stormwater fee goes into effect on July 1, 2018. Once the fee goes into effect, general fund money that was used to fund stormwater will be used to fund police, fire and critical facility repairs, vital repairs to city facilities and more.
For 2018, Mayor Suthers presented a revised budget proposal to City Council that includes an additional 20 police officers, 8 firefighters and two other positions in the fire department. Council will vote on the final 2018 budget Dec. 12. These new positions are part of a plan to add 100-120 police officers to the force incrementally, over the next five years.

The Inter-Governmental Agreement with Pueblo committed to fund stormwater for 20 years beginning in 2016. However the stormwater fee will sunset 2038, two years after the Inter-Governmental Agreement with Pueblo ends. How will the extra money collected through the fee be used and what happens when the fee sunsets?

The operation of the City's stormwater program has three main elements - (1) capital construction of facilities, (2) operation and maintenance of the stormwater system, and (3) administrations of the MS4 (Clean Water Act) Permit obligations.  The capital projects are planned to be completed within the 20 year timeframe.  However, the MS4 obligations and operation and maintenance of our City's stormwater system will continue into the future beyond the 20 year timeframe.  Any overlap of funding will be used solely for those stormwater requirements that must still be met after the terms of the IGA are satisfied. Funding of the City’s stormwater program and MS4 obligations will always be a requirement.

What happened to the $12 million voters allowed the City to retain for stormwater projects?

Before the proposed stormwater fee was placed on the ballot, voters allowed the City in April to retain and spend for stormwater up to $6 million of revenues each year over the otherwise applicable TABOR cap for 2016 and 2017. This funding serves as a first step in honoring the City’s commitment to fund stormwater in accordance with its Inter-Governmental Agreement with Pueblo County. All of those revenues will fund stormwater projects located within the city limits.

What is the difference between stormwater drainage and wastewater drainage? Don’t they all drain into the same system which we already pay for?

Prior to the 1970’s, many cities operated what was referred to as combined sewer systems which captured both stormwater and sanitary sewage flows into one system. These systems often caused discharge of untreated sewage into waterways during storms, and made wastewater treatment plants less efficient.  Environmental regulations adopted after 1972 required the separation of stormwater and sanitary sewer flows into separate systems, which are now subject to different regulations. Therefore, all of Colorado Springs sewers and stormwater drains are now separate.

Why is the City calling this a stormwater fee, not a tax?

The proposed stormwater fee is a service fee and can lawfully be collected from all users of the service, including governmental, non-profit and religious entities. Unlike a service fee, a tax is imposed to raise general government revenues unrelated to a specific purpose or service, and is calculated based upon the value of taxable property or of a taxable transaction.  Because the stormwater fee will only be used for stormwater purposes, and not to contribute to general governmental revenues, it is properly categorized as a fee.
As a municipal enterprise, the Stormwater Enterprise is subject to the provisions of Issue 300.  In compliance with Issue 300, the Stormwater Enterprise will not provide to or receive from the municipal government or any other enterprise any gifts, loans, or subsidies pursuant to provisions of City Code Chapter 14, Article 9. 

 

Ballot Language

The November 7, 2017 Special Municipal Election is held as part of the November 7, 2017 Coordinated Election which is conducted by the El Paso County Clerk & Recorder. The Special Municipal Election has one question that pertains specifically to the City of Colorado Springs. 

City Question 2A - As set forth in Resolution 89-17, referred by City Council 8/22/2017

Without imposing any new tax or increasing any existing taxes, shall Ordinance No. 17 - 69 of the City of Colorado Springs be approved authorizing: the collection of stormwater service fees beginning July 1, 2018 and ending July 1, 2038, for the sole purpose of funding through a City enterprise, the construction, improvement, operation and maintenance of public stormwater facilities and a public stormwater system in the City, including regulatory permit compliance and protection of life and property within the City from the hazards of flooding and stormwater, to be assessed on all developed real property within the City, with such fees not to exceed the following maximum amounts:

Residential property:            $5.00 per dwelling unit/month
Non-residential property:  $30.00 per acre/month

providing that such fees may be thereafter increased by City Council by Resolution only to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, and intergovernmental agreements of the City entered into before June 1, 2016; and providing for citizen advisory committee oversight?

_____Yes

_____No

➢ Ordinance 17-69 - Amending Article 8 (Stormwater Enterprise) of Chapter 14 (Municipal Enterprises)

➢ Current City Code - Stormwater Enterprise - Chapter 14, Article 8