Investing in Infrastructure

Citizens pay for public infrastructure with their hard-earned tax dollars. This is a core-government responsibility that includes roads, bridges, sidewalks, medians, drainage structures, stormwater, parks, trails and more.  We believe that our public policy leaders must protect these assets, not only for the safety and environment in which we live and commute every day, but because it is their ethical responsibility.  We expect fiduciary responsibility for these assets that we have collectively purchased and we recognize the work that must be done to ensure our public dollars are consistently maintaining our infrastructure.

As part of our focus on addressing local infrastructure needs, Colorado Springs Forward strongly supported Measure 2C on the November 3, 2015 ballot. We also supported the repair of our trails and parks pathways with a yes vote on Measure 2D, which was a budget surplus retention question. This was not a tax increase and did not entail any new taxes, rather asked the citizens of Colorado Springs, per TABOR,  if they would like a refund of eleven dollars or if they would like to have the 2 million dollar surplus revenue invested in the park’s system.  The voters chose to invest the money in the parks.

Distribution of sales tax

The infrastructure of a city affects many aspects of everyday life. We use roads to travel, to get to work and to go shopping. We play and hold sporting events in parks. Our utility system provides the power and the energy to keep our homes warm in winter and cool in summer.  There are also life-safety infrastructure needs such as stormwater systems, fire stations and fire trucks, communication systems for public safety personnel and, and today more than ever, a growing information technology network to keep us connected, informed and safe.

Locally, funding for capital infrastructure comes from many sources including federal funds for interstate highways; Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for state roads and general county and city funds for local roads, police and fire departments, bridges, parks and many other facilities we use in our daily lives. For the most part, these assets are funded by taxes. Income tax, property tax and sales tax provide the dollars to build and maintain infrastructure. The general fund of the City of Colorado Springs is in large part funded by the 2% sales tax that we pay on many purchases. Here’s how our sales tax is divided:

2.0% Colorado Springs General Sales Tax
0.4% Colorado Springs Public Safety Sales Tax
0.1% Colorado Springs Trails and Open Space Sales Tax
2.9% State of Colorado
1.23% El Paso County (Effective 1/1/2013)
1.0% Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA)
7.63% Combined Sales and Use Tax

According to the City Committee of Colorado Springs (http://www.thecitycommittee.org/), annual investment in infrastructure decreased from a high of $35 million (16% of the general fund) in 2002 to a low of just $10 million (4% of the general fund) in 2011. The level of investment has recovered as sales tax collections have increased with economic growth since the recession of 2008-2009. The 1% PPRTA tax provides an additional $70-$80 million per year for regional roads, bridge construction and maintenance.

Despite all these sources of funds and all the investment made over recent years, our local infrastructure is not where it needs to be: our roads are in poor shape, we have bridges that need repair, our parks are deteriorating and we have not kept up with our stormwater management needs which have increased as a result of two large wildfires in 2012 and 2013.

There are many reasons for this deterioration: poor economy, urban sprawl, bad winters, growing population, redirection of funds to more immediate needs, increased watering costs for parks and several others. However, to be a vibrant and attractive community, we are going to have to address this funding shortfall and determine how to pay for the level of infrastructure we desire so we have green parks and medians and roads that do not damage our cars as we drive to work and school. We need to ensure Colorado Springs’ infrastructure is attractive to the people visiting, relocating to, or establishing a business in our city. We need to be proud of the way our city looks and functions and clearly show we are ready and open for business!