Jury still out on which stormwater funding model is best

Published: December 12, 2013, 7:36 pm, by Monica Mendoza

Colorado Springs City Council says Mayor Steve Bach may have jumped the gun calling his stormwater plan “the most sensible.”

Hold on, Council says in a letter sent to the mayor. The task force has not solidified its proposal and likely won’t do so until after the New Year.  It’s too early to say which solution is the most sensible, said Val Snider, council member and task force member.

“It’s important to note that the Regional Stormwater Task Force has not made a recommendation about the best structure for governance or funding of the program, and does not anticipate making that decision for at least a couple of months,” the task force said in a Dec. 10 letter to Bach.

The Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force still is doing research on the laws and finances of various scenarios, Snider said.

Bach issued a press release Dec. 9 outlining his proposal on how to pay for the millions in backlogged drainage and flood control projects.  He was reacting to a community survey the task force had done to gauge public interest in stormwater issues and funding. Respondents of the survey said they favored a regional approach, a dedicated funding source and they wanted some say in the list of projects to be built.

The task force may not have settled on a proposal, but it has narrowed down its discussion to two options: one models the Pike Peak Rural Transportation Authority, created by voters in Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls and collects 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements.  

The other option is modeled after the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority, which includes Centennial, Arapahoe County, and three water districts. The authority sets and collects fees, has a staff and oversees the projects for the region.

 Bach does not want a new tax or fee. His plan is to ask voters to extend an existing bond debt, slated to retire in 2016, for 20 more years to pay for $175 million in stormwater projects in the city.

His stormwater funding plan would spend more than $20 million a year for five years on needed flood control projects. The plan also would dedicate $11.5 million a year to roads and bridges and $2.5 million to public safety infrastructure and $1 million to parks. Bach also has said the city would find $5 million a year in the general fund to set aside for stormwater projects.

The biggest difference between the task force and the mayor’s proposal is one will provide funding for about 34 projects over five years and be paid for over 20 years. The PPRTA model is a pay-as you go and is a dedicated funding source for more than five years.

Bach, the City Council, the El Paso County Commissioners and mayors from neighboring communities will meet Jan 16 to discuss stormwater.