City ballot issues pass in Littleton

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Two ballot issues centered on how to deal with City of Littleton revenue collection passed by wide margins, according to unofficial results.

Ballot issue 2C allows the city to keep $1.9 million in excess revenue, earmarked for road repair and upgrades, while 2D ratchets up the base for future revenue collection.

Issue 2C passed with 78.6 percent of the vote while 2D passed with 65.9 percent, according to unofficial results published by the Colorado Secretary of State's office.

"That’s a pretty significant margin," said Littleton city manager Mark Relph. "Rarely do I see that. The margin is so significant that It’ll make things a lot more manageable as we look at providing services in the long run, so we can plan more effectively. The margin also shows the level of trust between the community and the city organization."

The city's ability to collect money is constrained by the 1992 Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR amendment. The law sets a cap on the money the city can take in, calculated by a formula of the city's 1992 revenues plus adjustments for inflation in the Consumer Price Index and the increase in population. Any revenue collected in excess of the cap must be refunded to taxpayers, unless voters approve a waiver of the refund.

Littleton's TABOR cap in 2016 was $67 million, but a high amount of impact fees and building use taxes, which are one-time payments related to new development, allowed the city to collect more than $69 million, creating a surplus of $1,937,904.

Ballot issue 2C allows the city to keep the excess revenue, which is earmarked for two projects: $1,392,904 will go to pavement improvements on residential streets, and $545,000 will go to intersection safety upgrades to the intersection of Bowles Avenue and Federal Boulevard.

The extra revenue will increase the length of streets due to be resurfaced from 3.4 miles to seven miles. The intersection project will focus on improving traffic movement, alignment and pedestrian safety.

The ballot measure took on greater weight as the city's capital projects fund, which pays for road improvement projects, is dwindling in the face of declining gas tax and use tax collection.

Ballot measure 2D addressed the city's revenue collection cap, and allows the city to ratchet up the base for revenue collection to the city's 2016 numbers, thus starting over the clock on employing the TABOR-imposed formula.

The city's costs have increased faster than the TABOR formula anticipated, Littleton Finance Director Tiffany Hooten said in an October interview, with construction and raw materials costs climbing faster than consumer goods and inflation.

"The capital projects fund is still a problem, Relph said. "The TABOR vote might help councils in the future a little bit, but we have a deep issue we’ll have to talk to the council and the community about. Expectations are high on maintaining public facilities and infrastructure. We’re still going to struggle with that."

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