Your CSBJ editorial would have been more effectual had it been more factual. It’s a shame your defense of Big Government and illegal city taxes was published on Independence Day, which was sparked by a tax revolt against much lower colonial levies.
First, there are no “cuts” in the 10-year phase-out of the secret “substitute tax” the city now collects on utility bills. The city imposed it not only without voter approval, but despite 1991 voter approval of my petition to phase out residential city utility taxes. The current city budget is $360 million. A yearly change of $2.7 million in a budget that will grow $18 million (5 percent) or more yearly is only a slower rate of increase.
Second, you admitted “all property owners” are billed the stormwater tax. That means the federal, state and county governments are taxed; schools are taxed; churches and other non-profits are taxed. It is obviously illegal for the city to tax the United States government. The amount raised is not “more than $20 million annually,” but $15 million. Does that allay 25 percent of your hysteria? In 2001, city voters rejected a $5 million tax for drainage. So now the city is taking three times that amount without asking.
Third, it is not all going for drainage systems. The city spent over $1 million on shiny new trucks for its new staff. That raised their egos, but did not drain even one intentionally neglected stormwater channel. For decades, the city has put bureaucracy-boosting ahead of flood prevention. The basics should not cost extra; they come first.
Fourth, the enterprise would not “go out of business,” as it is not now “in business.” The constitution and charter require an enterprise to be a “business.” Yours of all papers should understand that a business provides goods and services to voluntary customers. That is what our one-sentence petition will require. No business can take money by force, with threats of seizing people’s homes with bogus liens (never proven in court) and additions to property tax bills (while claiming it is not a tax). That power is proof it is a government imposing a tax for public works, not a lawful business serving private desires of voluntary customers.
Fifth, you claim ending the 20-month old stormwater tax would lead to “plummeting property values” and business departures. Since when do entrepreneurs flee lower taxes?
Lastly, you blindly accept the city’s claim that phasing out $2.7 million the first year, $5.4 the second, $8.1 the third, etc. will cost the city $212 million in 10 years. Dust off your calculator and you will see it’s $148.5 million. Of course, to big spenders, a $63.5 million mistake is a rounding error. The true savings is under 3.5 percent of the $4.4 billion the city will collect during that time under current rates of budget growth. Your claim that a 3.5 percent tax reduction spread over 10 years is a calamity is itself an absurdity.
The City Council took away our right to vote on these taxes, and did so by lying to us about “fees” and “substitute taxes.”
State Rep. Douglas Bruce, Colorado Springs