In his last “State of the City” address, Mayor Lionel Rivera today called upon Colorado Springs residents to suspend the city’s TABOR law for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
“The TABOR formula creates rapid declines in revenue limits in economic downturns, but prevents rapid recovery when conditions improve,” the mayor said. “As the economy recovers, what we refer to as the ‘ratchet-down effect’ of TABOR could restrict the city’s efforts to restore services.
“If it looks like we will be in surplus for 2010, then we should strongly consider placing a measure on the November ballot to ask citizens to allow the city to retain surplus revenue for 2010, 2011, and 2012 and add it to our TABOR budget baseline.
“It’s the only way we will recover from the ratchet-down effect and allow the natural growth in our economy to help us recover.”
He asked the council to put the idea before voters in April.
Vice Mayor Larry Small, who sits on the council, wasn’t immediately ready to embrace the idea.
“He’s never talked to us (about suspending TABOR),” Small said. “The prudent thing would be to talk to your colleagues before going public.”
In his speech, Rivera also asked for help from the county commissioners and the state legislature on other financial matters.
“We must demand true pension reform for PERA from our state legislature and new governor,” Rivera said.
“For local governments who participate in PERA, state law mandates that we contribute 13.7 percent of an employee’s salary while the employee contributes 8 percent.
“I don’t think that is fair to taxpayers or rate payers. At a minimum, the employer and employee should share the cost equally. After all, it’s our employee who will receive a lifetime benefit when they retire. If we do nothing, I would expect the mandated contribution rate for the employer to go higher in the future and we cannot afford that additional cost.
“This type of reform will save the city, Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Health System several million dollars a year and again will mitigate service reductions, future rate increases, or increased hospital charges.”
The mayor also criticized the county commissioners for hijacking the city’s share of the road and bridge tax.
“I’m … asking our county commissioners to reconsider their recent decision to reduce the county’s road and bridge mill levy and increase their general fund mill levy,” he said
“The effect of that policy decision was the reduction of $2.5 million annually from Colorado Springs’ historical allocation of road and bridge funds and transferring it to the county’s general fund. Those funds have historically been allocated to all the cities in the county for road and bridge infrastructure and I’m confident all my mayoral colleagues would like it restored.”
Small scoffed at Rivera’s proposal that the county return the road and bridge mill levy.
“So in exchange for that $2.7 million, are we going to create our own health department, our own human services department, and build our own jail?” he asked. “The city receives a lot of benefit from being in the county. Right now we’re in discussions with the county over SDS permitting fees, and his (Rivera’s) hostility to the county isn’t helping is at all.”
Small was equally dismissive of Rivera’s call for PERA reform.
“If he wants our legislators’ support, he might have gone to the legislative breakfasts during the last session. We had three of ‘em at 7 in the morning, and there were eight or 10 legislators at every one. He never showed.”
Earlier in the speech, Rivera praised the volunteer efforts that had allowed many city services to continue despite severe budget cuts.
He also noted with approval “historic accomplishments” such as the Southern Delivery System and the city-funded deal to retain the United States Olympic Committee for “next 30 years.”