Making the most of your 72 cents

Filed under: Opinion |

Everyone likes to get the most bang for their buck.

A pleasant reality is the mileage we get out of a 72 cent investment every single day in Colorado Springs. Seventy-two cents… can you remember when gas was 72 cents a gallon or a loaf of bread was 72 cents?

For just 72 cents per day, per resident, all of the city general fund services are available every day to citizens. Half of that 72 cents goes to public safety efforts, which citizens have told us repeatedly is a top priority.

A dime a day goes into fundamental public works activities, such as snow removal.

Coming up with a dime a day is certainly a lot easier than asking residents of a street to split a bill in the thousands of dollars to clear their road every time it snows.

And it makes civic sense; after all, we all use the roads throughout the city.

All of us pay taxes, including every city employee. We are managing money that comes out of our own pocketbooks, too, so it’s not just “someone else’s” money that we’re spending.

Like every citizen, I want to see my tax dollars spent wisely and efficiently. Our staff strives to do just that in every decision we make. We don’t take this responsibility lightly.

Cost of General Fund Services

Each Colorado Springs resident pays an average of 72 cents per day for all general fund services.

Sales and use tax

The total sales and use tax rate in Colorado Springs is 7.4 percent.

Did you know that only 2.5 percent of that goes to city government? That 2.5 percent makes up more than 50 percent of the general fund budget.

Of that 2.5 percent city portion, 0.1 percent is dedicated to trails, open space and parks (TOPS) and 0.4 percent is dedicated to Public Safety (PSST) through voter approved ballots, with the remaining 2 percent going to the general fund.

Any reduction in the sales tax would have consequences for the city budget. Many things we take for granted, like the quality of life that comes from having a first-class parks system, would no longer be guaranteed.

Currently, we spend 49 percent of our general fund budget on public safety. That money is in addition to the PSST voter approved tax that is dedicated to public safety. The PSST ballot initiative required that the city maintain its current level of spending on public safety efforts.

The PSST cannot be used to replace any city funds. The recent RTA sales tax initiative, which accounts for another 1 percent of the local sales tax, has the same requirement. The city will not reduce its level of spending on transportation activities by substituting RTA funds.

Also, we do not receive 100 percent of the RTA sales tax because the revenue is shared with the other member entities of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority: El Paso County, Green Mountain Falls and Manitou Springs.

We spend 14 percent of the general fund budget on public works activities. Public safety and public works represent 63 percent of the general fund budget.

Property Tax

Do you know how much of your property tax comes to the city?

The city’s portion represents 8 percent of the typical property tax bill or $79 per year on a house with a market value of $200,000. That means you’re paying less than $40 per $100,000 of your house’s value to the city.

While it’s a modest amount per household annually, the revenue from property taxes makes it a crucial source of stable funding to provide services to our citizens.

The bulk of your property tax goes to the school system in your district. Other groups like the county, library and water districts also receive portions.

If you would like to know how the property tax you pay is divvied up, send your street address, ZIP code and the name of major cross street with the request to askcity@springsgov.com and we’ll show you where you money is going.

Responsibility

As your municipal city government, we have a responsibility to spend your money in ways that benefit you, your family and your community. Every day, we are striving to make Colorado Springs a safe, attractive and well-maintained community.

Every citizen has responsibility for these goals, too. Part of that responsibility is paying taxes. With that responsibility, you have rights, too.

You have the right to know how your money is being spent. I encourage you to get the factual information available by requesting the 2005 Budget in Brief and/or reviewing the full City General Fund Budget online at www.springsgov.com.

Readers may also contact me at askcity@springsgov.com. The city maintains open books, literally. If you have a question about budget preparations or payments made through our finance department, please ask.

Lorne Kramer is the city manager of Colorado Springs. His column appears the first Friday of every month.