Bruce doesn’t have his facts straight about city finances

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Dear Editor:
Douglas Bruce is purposely misleading your readers with his July 18 letter to the editor “Enterprise reform petitions will benefit residents.” His letter was full of inaccuracies and deception.
In talking about a city budget of $360 million, he neglects to mention that number includes $122.5 million in funds not available for general fund spending. That $122.5 million includes the budgets of city enterprises, funds from endowments and trusts made for specific purposes, and special revenue funds like improvement districts, where property tax collected by those living in that district is spent in that district for specific improvements.
These funds are not available for use by the city for services that benefit the whole community like public safety, public works, planning, parks and recreation, etc. The 2008 budget for those general fund services is $237.3 million.
He goes on to claim that the city’s budget is growing 5 percent annually. I don’t know what numbers he is using because the fact is our general fund budget is shrinking.
The 2008 general fund budget is 2 percent less than in 2007. In 2009, it will be reduced further due to declining sales tax revenue and rising costs.
For Bruce to claim there won’t be any cuts because of these measures is an outright falsehood. We are already facing cuts for next year’s budget and those cuts will be deeper if these initiatives pass.
Bruce tries to plant mistrust by claiming the collection of payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) is an illegal plot. It isn’t.
PILT represents taxes and fees an enterprise would pay to the municipal government if it were privately owned. It is the method used to ensure the enterprises pay their fair share — just like any business must do. The PILT is used to support crucial citizen services such as public safety and public works.
PILT represents a significant source of revenue to the general fund — more than $25 million annually. It is transparent; we clearly spell out the revenue we receive from the enterprises as PILT in our budgets every year.
As for the stormwater enterprise, no matter how many times it is called an illegal tax, it’s never going to change the facts. The stormwater fee is a legal fee, not a tax. This has been upheld by the State Supreme Court and is used by every other major city in Colorado to fund drainage improvements. Just because he doesn’t like the way something is funded, doesn’t make it illegal.
When City Council voted to establish the stormwater enterprise, it was after years of input by citizen groups to understand the issues and recommend solutions. The enterprise concept is the solution recommended to by the citizen task force and council agreed it was the most appropriate way to fund the extensive needs of our drainage system.
We joined 23 other Colorado municipalities who had made this same decision years ago. A loss of this funding would lead to increased flooding risks and decreased water quality for our community and our downstream neighbors.
Your readers should not be fooled by his fabricated assumptions. It takes money to run a city and we strive to be efficient and responsible to our citizens’ with their money.
Scott Hente, Colorado Springs City Council