Councilman Charles Wingate has a partner in his efforts to rid Colorado Springs of what he believes is excessive tax and wasteful spending. Meet anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce, someone not unknown in the tax abatement arena.
Wingate unsuccessfully floated several proposed tax cuts before the city council a few weeks ago, and now, with Bruce, has unleashed a passel of wished-for cuts and conditions on city operations.
The package has nine items ranging from tax cuts to placing limits on how many money issues the council can place on the ballot each year. It would also do away with tax increment financing, often used to jump-start urban renewal projects.
The council barely had time to digest the nine proposals before Bruce submitted another seven ballot proposals. The seven proposals don’t deal with any new subjects.
However, all are initiative proposals, meaning they require signatures of 10 percent of the city’s registered voters before appearing on a ballot. The names are to be collected in 90 days.
“We are not going away,” Bruce told a reporter. “We are not going to be discouraged.”
Wingate is just as stalwart.
“I’m looking forward to putting this in front of the voters,” Wingate said.
The latest proposals are likely to push Wingate further into the council’s doghouse. A reporter recently asked Wingate about how something would influence his relationship with fellow council members. Wingate said there is “no relationship.”
A board ruled last week the pair may start collecting signatures of registered voters on several of the proposals.
At a news conference, Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace said she doesn’t understand what Wingate’s motives are.
“I do not in any way, shape or form believe this would improve city government,” the mayor said of the Wingate/Bruce proposals. “I personally disagree with Mr. Bruce and Mr. Wingate when they talk about the excesses in government. To me, that’s a bunch of rhetoric, and it’s not true.”
One of Wingate’s proposals would eliminate the 0.4 cent public safety tax recently approved by voters, and also the 0.1 cent Trails, Open Space and Parks tax.
Makepeace, and Councilman Jim Null, both think Bruce, by trying to repeal the taxes, is showing “disdain” for voters who approved it.
“What he’s trying to do is undermine what the people just voted for,” said Null. “It’s a very, very bad set of proposals.”
Here are the proposals Bruce and Wingate want to place on the November ballot:
a. Judges will set ballot titles at public meetings.
b. Only two money issues on the ballot per year.
c. Current bonds not included, the city can’t have more than $30 in bonded debt at any one time.
d. Sales of public property to take place only at public auctions, and awarded to highest bidder.
e. Tax and debt increases approved after 1999, including last year’s .4 percent sales tax increase for public safety, good only for eight years.
f. Money for roads, parks and drainage as a percentage of the city budget to increase one percent in each of next five years.
g. Property tax revenue to drop by $2 million per year for next seven years until it totals $4 million.
h. If voters nix a tax or debt increase the council can put it on the ballot the next year only if it collects signatures from the required number of voters.
i. Money for public safety as a percentage of the city budget will never drop below its 2002 level of 47 percent.