Judging from Mayor Steve Bach’s remarks at a Tuesday press conference, the city’s capital improvements backlog can now be described as catastrophic, rather than merely dismal.
Asked by a reporter whether the city’s backlog amounted to twice as much as the city’s annual budget, Bach shook his head.
“Twice as much?” he asked. “That’d be about $500 million. It’s much more than that. Stormwater and drainage alone are $500 million, and bridges are another $200-300 million.”
Chief of Staff Laura Neumann, sitting quietly in the audience, caught her boss’s eye and raised her thumb. She wasn’t signaling approval, just telling the mayor that he needed to add another $100 million or so to the bridge ledger.
The mayor will present a comprehensive overview of the backlog at next Monday’s informal council meeting. We’ll get the details then, but the total number will certainly be north of $1 billion. He won’t propose any funding solutions, but he suggested at the press conference that the city needs to be spending another $30 million annually on capital improvements.
Where could the money come from?
A new 1-cent city sales tax would raise $30 million, as would a sharp increase in the city property tax. In the present economic climate, it’s hard to imagine a majority of Springs voters supporting any new tax – and it may even be difficult to convince them to support the renewal of the PPRTA tax come November.
So what’s a mayor to do? Try to squeeze a few bucks from Colorado Springs Utilities, and seek operational savings from the overall city budget.
And even if he finds $30 million, it won’t make much of a dent. It’ll take 33 years to clear up the present backlog, and meanwhile the city’s aging infrastructure will continue to deteriorate.
And what’s the rate of deterioration? Probably well over $30 million annually. If so, this is one swamp that’ll never be drained.