“Shall the existing 0.1% (one-tenth of a cent) City sales and use tax for Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) be amended to allow no more than fifteen percent (15%) of the revenue from the tax and interest earnings of the TOPS fund to be used for stewardship and maintenance of all City-owned trails, open space and parks for a period of five years, from May 1, 2009 through April 30, 2014, only, with a change to biennial independent audit requirements, and no other changes to the TOPS program as authorized in previous elections?”
Here’s a factual summary of the proposal from the City of Colorado Springs:
Issue 1C proposes to:
- Allow for a broader definition of the uses of Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funds to include stewardship and maintenance of all City-owned open space, wildlife habitat, water supplies, trails and greenways;
- Change the audit requirement from “biannual” to “biennial”;
- Adjust the percentage of total revenues for maintenance purposes from 6% up to 15% of the revenue from tax and interest earnings of the TOPS fund; and
- Allow use of the revenue generated from up to 15% maintenance fund for stewardship and maintenance of all City-owned trails, open spaces and parks properties for a period of five (5) years.
Issue 1C, for a period of five (5) years, will change the allocation of the funds to provide up to 15% in stewardship and maintenance for all City-owned trails and open space without increasing taxes.
Any future changes to the TOPS program would require voter approval.
Changing the audit requirements from biannual (twice a year) to biennial (every two years) is consistent with other City audit standards and will save on administrative costs.
The voters approved the TOPS program to provide stewardship and maintenance responsibilities for TOPS-acquired trails, open space and parks only. Spending additional TOPS funding on maintenance decreases the amount of funding for future park construction, trail development and open space acquisition.
This is the second time voters are being asked to use more of the TOPS funds on maintenance. Enlarging the maintenance fund to 15% will decrease the amount of other trails, open space and parks that TOPS could fund until it sunsets in the year 2025.
Reliance on TOPS revenue for ongoing maintenance is not wise because the 15% TOPS maintenance provision sunsets in five (5) years.
And here’s how the candidates feel about TOPS:
Scott Hente (District 1): “Yes. Simply stated, we should not continue to build additional parks if we can’t take care of the ones that we currently have.”
Dave Gardner (District 3): “No. We’ve chipped away enough at TOPS funding. To water the parks this summer, let’s ask the EDC to donate to parks the quarter-of-a-million dollars it is being given this year by the City and Utilities. Let’s keep the money flowing to TOPS for acquisition. We might be able to get a good deal on Banning Lewis Ranch right now. It would be much cheaper for our city to buy it back from the California developer than it will be for us to build the $2 billion SDS pipeline to water its planned new subdivisions.”
Tony Carpenter (District 4): “No, we can stop the utilities bonuses and apply them to our water rates
and solve this situation.”
As of yet, Bernie Herpin (District 4) and Jerry Heimlicher (District 3) have not responded to my emails asking for their views, and Darryl Glen (District 2) said he would not be able to answer questions via email.