200 gather in support of mill levy increase

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More than 200 people gathered this morning at the Pioneers Museum to kickoff “A City Worth Fighting For,” a campaign to persuade voters to approve a 10-mill city property tax increase.

The campaign is led by councilwoman Jan Martin, who yesterday persuaded her council colleagues to refer the issue to the November ballot. Joining her at the podium were former councilwoman and nonprofit leader Mary Ellen McNally, councilman Jerry Heimlicher and firefighter J.J. Halsey.

“We’re not asking for a tax increase,” Heimlicher said, “We’re asking the citizens to make a decision. This isn’t a scare tactic – but it is scary.”

Heimlicher made reference to anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce, who was there taking notes.

“The primary opponent of this measure will tell you that everything is just fine – and that the issue for you to decide is between a tax increase and a tax cut,” he said, “but if his measure passes and takes away another $25 million to $30 million from the city, then the cuts will be much worse.”

The proposed cuts would drastically affect not only the city’s appearance, but its ability to deliver essential services, according to Martin and Halsey.

“We’d close five visitor centers, Rock Ledge Ranch, the Pioneers Museum, all the pools, six community centers, eliminate the flowerbed and stop irrigating 85 parks and historic medians,” Martin said.

J.J. Halsey noted that 35 positions in the fire department would be eliminated.

“That would make it really hard for us to deliver services,” he said. “We’re not just leaving vacant positions unfilled – we’d be making deep cuts.”

The city manager’s proposed budget cuts call for axing two fire squads and for cross-staffing heavy rescue with a truck company, thereby eliminating 24 firefighters.

Terry Sullivan, CEO of Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak and Mike Kazmierski, president of the Economic Development Corp., were in attendance. Both said that they, as individuals, support the proposed tax increase.

“I’m just here as myself, not as a representative of the EDC,” said Kazmierski. “So I’ll leave before the speeches. Our board hasn’t taken a position on the issue as yet.”

Sullivan echoed Kazmierski.

“I’m supportive, and I imagine that many of our members will be as well,” he said. “But I don’t know that we’ll take a formal position.”

4 Responses to 200 gather in support of mill levy increase

  1. Absolutely no more taxes or mill increases or money mandated to be taken out of our pockets!! Perhaps, and I know I’m just wishfully thinking here, if the State, County, and City budgets were handled differently we the public wouldn’t have to be constantly bullied, badgered, and guilted into having our money ripped away from us.

    Why are we not rewarding those departments who come in under budget? I believe the mentality of stating a budget for the ensuing year and then HAVING to spend that amount before year’s end is rather sad. Having worked on a Board of Directors before and having my eyes opened at the amount of money we were FORCED to spend at year’s end because, if not, we lost the state grants……well, that’s just ridiculous…..we had come in way under budget but were not rewarded for sound management and budget control…..we had to spend the savings or lose the grants…..and don’t even think of asking for less money the next year….why, what would people think? That we really didn’t need that much money? How silly.

    NO NEW OR HIGHER TAXES, NO MILL INCREASES — keep your grubby, sticky, greedy fingers off what little I have left over in my paycheck!!

    M. M. Mills
    August 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm

  2. We’d close 5 Visitor Centers, Pools, Irragation of 85 parks. GIVE ME A BREAK!!

    Ask the question,

    Don’t give us the ol’ song and dance about cutting Firefighters and Pools and Parks, what a crock!!

    Don’t believe it, it’s a lie. Make the REAL CUTS needed on spending NOT needed and DO YOUR JOBS!

    It's Scare Tactics at Work . . .Again!!
    August 27, 2009 at 1:31 pm

  3. 200? It was a good crowd, but I would have guessed 100 at most.

    Dave Gardner
    August 27, 2009 at 1:53 pm

  4. A quick head count showed there were about 75 to 80 in attendance, give or take a few… not bad for a Thursday morning rally, but nowhere near 200.

    I would really like to support this, but when council showed me just how resourceful and creative they can be at coming up with cash for something like the USOC project, I am hard pressed to believe they can’t be as resourceful at keeping our pools and community centers opem, watering the grass and keeping our park restrooms open, and keeping firefighters employed and cops.

    Scare tactics? I’m afraid so. Is the $9 million in city salary hikes for next year still on the table? Does the city manager still have two deputy city managers on staff? Uh huh… just as I thought.

    Doug Bruce’s initiative is just plain stupid (the council really should have put Gallagher’s partial de-TABOR on the ballot, as I am pretty sure it would have passed convincingly. But a mill levy increase right now is gonna be a really tough sell in this economy. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, and high unemployment just don’t bode well for a tax hike right now – or maybe Martin, McNally et al haven’t noticed. Now THAT would be scary.

    Moe DeLaun
    August 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm