Steamboat Springs 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