Petitions about Oak Creek enterprise funds certified

Advertisement

— Five petitions about Oak Creek’s plan to charge its enterprise funds management fees have been certified.

Oak Creek property owner Scott Wedel originally submitted a single petition seeking to either restrict the town to recouping actual costs from the enterprise funds used to manage utilities or put the matter to a public vote. Concerned that the single petition did not conform to state statutes because it covered four enterprise funds, Wedel then submitted a petition for each enterprise fund.

All the petitions were certified by Oak Creek, with the town reserving the right to dismiss them as applying to administrative issues rather than legislative issues. The Colorado constitution restricts initiative and referendum powers vested in the people to legislative matters.

On Thursday, Town Attorney Bob Weiss explained the legal situation in open session and gave advice to the Town Board during executive session.

Oak Creek Town Administrator Mary Alice Page-Allen said no decisions were made during the executive session, and the town has not decided whether to challenge the topic of the petitions.

Wedel said he plans to circulate the single petition covering all four enterprise funds. The one-topic rule about petitions was clarified by Weiss during Thursday’s meeting. Wedel wrote in an email that he sees the scope of his petition as being focused on legislative issues.

“I am pretty sure it will hold up in court,” Wedel wrote, noting the issue’s similarity to a ballot measure in Colorado Springs in 2008.

The Colorado Springs measure, which was successful at the polls, sought to phase out payments from enterprise funds in eight years and was initiated by anti-tax advocate Douglas Bruce, who authored Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights and recently was released from prison after serving a sentence for tax evasion.

Issue 300, as the ballot measure is known, resulted in the elimination of the city’s stormwater enterprise fund. However, Colorado Springs Utilities does contribute to the city in form of payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, which account for $31.7 million, or about 13 percent, of the city’s 2013 budget. The payments were considered a surplus under the town charter and exempted from Issue 300.

Much like the discussion Colorado Springs had about Issue 300, Oak Creek will have to decide what it considers an acceptable level of funding for the services residents want.

“We need to look at how the town operates as a whole and engage the community in that discussion,” Page-Allen said. “If they don’t come to us to have that discussion — in addition to providing those opportunities to come to us — we need to go to them.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

The larger objective of the petition is to force the Town to reach an agreement with it's citizens over the amount of government services and the resulting amount of taxes paid.

It is budget chaos to have voter approved property and sales taxes of one amount (currently $170K a year) and Town Board approved raiding of the utilities of a greater amount of whatever amount they chose (proposed $180K for 2013).

In a previous article, this paper noted that the Town of Holly transfers money from their electric utility. But they also had a measure on November's ballot to raise their sales tax to 3% from 1% in order to stop taking money from the utility. The measure passed last Tuesday. I talked to Town of Holly's Treasurer Mary and asked why was the sales tax measure proposed instead of continuing to take money from the utility. She said the utility needed the money in reserves.

So Oak Creek embarking on this course of action is questionable. The Town is citing as their example a town which was in the process of deciding that was a poor way to operate and instead passed taxes to pay for local government.

It is my sincere hope that Town of Oak Creek learns from Holly and asks for voter approvals of what they say they need. Oak Creek would presumably ask for approval of an utility tax.

Also, a previous article on this subject did not make clear that Oak Creek's utilities already reimburse the Town for all overhead expenses. So the money being taken would be after expenses and could be considered "profit". But "profit" generated by a monopoly utility by a Town that also sets the utility rates is not a matter of operating the utilities particularly well, but a matter of how much they choose to set rates above their costs.

The regulated utilities are allowed to earn a profit on their investment after their rates have been approved by the PUC. They do not get to pick their profit as percentage of revenues.

0

Michael Schrantz 1 year, 5 months ago

Scott,

The town never cited Holly as an example. I called or obtained budgets from the municipalities in Colorado that manage electric utilities and picked Holly as an example for the comparable size of the utility and population of the town.

It is my understanding that Holly does not have a budgeted fee system for the utilities, but, instead, takes whatever it needs to fill budget gaps at the end of the year.

As you are a subject in the story, returning a call would allow me to add your arguments.

Michael Schrantz 970-871-4206

0

Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

According to their Treasurer Mary, Holly does monthly transfers that is projected to be $100,000 a year. Though, if the money is not there for a month then they take less. And Holly was an interesting choice as an example because I talked to several city owned electric utilities and all of them said that it is wrong for government to take money from an utility for which they set the rates. That they have voter approved utility taxes

I believe between emails and these posts that you have far more material than ever makes it into an article. And when we talk then you spend way too much time proposing hypothetical future scenarios that all argue for making transfers.

You also have plenty of material to write important articles. There has yet to be the article explaining how utility rates got set to their current levels due to critical issues within the utilities. Now despite all of the remaining critical infrastructure issues there is excess money to give to the general fund. There is no evidence that Town Hall found some brilliant cost savings and maybe should get some of that back. No, they are further deferring deferred maintenance for water and sewer. Electric because of the increased usage from mj growers has the revenues, but Town had choices between lowering rates now, building up the reserves to delay when a rate hike will be needed (preferred option of MEAN"s rate study author) or take the money for the general fund.

Nor have you even clearly stated that tax revenues for 2013 budget is about the same as the current 2012 budget. That while property taxes are expected to decline around $40,000 for the 2014 budget, that does not justify why $180,040 is required for the 2013 budget. That Town Board has decided that Town Government needs to get bigger for 2013 and that they believe the voters cannot be trusted to approve it.

0

Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

"Much like the discussion Colorado Springs had about Issue 300, Oak Creek will have to decide what it considers an acceptable level of funding for the services residents want."

Michael, That is an exceptionally inaccurate statement. The central issue of Issue 300 and the OC petitions is that under Colorado Law there is the expectation that VOTERS HAVE TO APPROVE TAXES AND JUST BECAUSE GOVERNMENT FINDS A WAY TO CALL SOMETHING A FEE DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT!!! The idea that storm drains were a government enterprise did not exist prior to TABOR. Back then it was obviously a government service paid by taxes. But after TABOR passed then some clever city attorneys figured out that TABOR didn't limit government's ability to set fees and so governments could bypass TABOR's requirement of voter approval of taxes by finding ways to redefine government services as fee based enterprises.

Go do some research on the campaign for Issue 300. Douglas Bruce made it absolutely clear that it was about unapproved taxes. I also have been consistently stating that it is about unapproved taxes for OC. I am not arguing that I want this or that government service cut. I have told you every time we have talked that it is supposed to be up to the voters to fund the level of services they want from government. In fact, I have told you many times that I think it would be reasonable for the Town to propose an electricity utility tax to raise revenues for popular services. Cargo and I have decided that it is too much for us two to decide what is the right rate needed for what services.

The bypassing of voter approvals of taxes to find new revenue streams was the central issue for Issue 300 advocates in Colorado Springs and now for OC.

And you wonder why Cargo and I see little reason to talk to you? What is said to you is usually ignored and anything in the paper is usually misquoted anyway. At least you got the Colorado Springs Issue 300 similarity to the OC petition right, but that was sent to you in email. And then you accept the losing side's version of the central campaign issue and don't even mention the winning side's campaign issue!

look at http://www.gazette.com/articles/city-63192-taxes-fees.html Opening paragraph:

This simple two-sentence ordinance 1) ends now stormwater fees and other deals voters never approved between enterprises and the city, and 2) phases out secret utility taxes and other enterprise payments to the city over eight years. All savings will lower our bills and “fees.” Make city council run enterprises like businesses, not slush funds or piggy banks. Demand your right to vote on taxes they falsely call “fees.” Vote “for” the “Right to Vote” petition, issue 300.

Douglas Bruce and I both believe it is up to the voter to approve additional sources of revenues from taxpayers. As the Town of Holly just showed, taxpayers can approve taxes to pay for desired government services.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.