County Commissioners Respond to Subdivision Paving Public Comments

The County Commissioners have taken public comment since March 2013 on proposals for a subdivision paving public improvement district (PID) or a local improvement district (LID) and have provided responses below to the most commonly-posed public comments on the proposals:

Public Comment: Rehabilitation of subdivision roads should be paid for by all county residents/re-allocate existing priorities

 
Commissioners' Response: It has long been county policy that those improvements that benefit specific groups or interests should be paid for by those who benefit from those improvements. Just as unincorporated property owners have created special taxing districts to fund their water, sewer, and fire protection services; it has been county policy that these unincorporated subdivisions should also fund rehabilitation of their roads. This policy has been in place for many years, and has been implemented in the past (for example, the Gunbarrel General Improvement District and Palo Park LID) for road rehabilitation, as well as for paying for paving of unpaved roads (Alder Lane LID, most recently). 

Our budgeting policy is to allocate general tax revenues (paid by all county taxpayers) for services and purposes that benefit of the entire county --such as public safety and law enforcement, district attorney and court services, community services, public health, parks and open space and the primary transportation system that connects our communities --and are used by the greatest number of people. General tax revenues are used as well to leverage state and federal funding for human services, transportation, and other state or federally-mandated and partially-funded programs.

Public Comment: The County should use reserve funds for subdivision roads rehabilitation


Commissioners' Response: The county currently has an undesignated reserve of approximately $63.6 million (about 20%) out of an annual budget of approximately $320 million. This number fluctuates each year and has been lower than the current amount in recent years. Maintaining a healthy reserve is consistent with the Board's policy of having a conservative approach to managing the County Budget and has allowed the county to weather the recent economic downturn better than almost every other county in the state. 

A critical element of the Board's conservative budgeting policy includes keeping two months of county operating expenses in reserve (approx. $22.4 million). This is above and beyond that which is required by TABOR and it ensures that the County can continue to meet its expenses and continue to provide essential services in the event of a major economic downturn or other emergency situation. In addition, approximately $7.4 million of the undesignated reserves are necessary to complete projects initiated in 2012, but not completed by the end of last year. After these two elements, the available reserve for emergencies and unanticipated expenses is about $34 million, or about 11% of the County annual budget. This conservative approach to budgeting also allows the county to maintain a double A+ bond rating, which means that we can borrow money on the market at a lower interest rate than would otherwise be available. 

The ability to borrow money at the lower interest rate saves the county taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. Keeping an 11% "emergency reserve" for when we need to respond to a natural disaster/emergency such as wildfire, flooding (such as the Colorado Springs area is now experiencing), another economic downturn, uncertain federal funding for key programs, and making sure we maintain a good bond rating, and having funding available should an unanticipated opportunity arise is an example of "responsible government." 

Public Comment: The County has decreased its funding for the upkeep of our roads and bridges

  
Commissioners' Response: This is not true. In order maximize the funds available for county roads, the amount of property tax allocated to roads has been minimized, and replaced with other sources of funding (the Specific Ownership Tax) since by state law property tax used for road and bridge maintenance must be shared with cities and towns. 

As has been presented by staff during the public hearing, since 1990 funding for Transportation has increased by approximately 4% annually. During this same period, the costs for asphalt have increased by at least 5% per year. As a result, we have to make hard choices and set priorities. And our priority for the funding available for keeping care of our roads and bridges is to focus resources on those roads that serve the most people and provide critical connections to our communities.

Public Comment: Some Subdivisions with private roads that use public subdivision roads for access would like to have their private roads be eligible for rehabilitation from PID funds since they would have to pay the same as everyone else, but do not receive the same benefit since they also have pay for upkeep of their private roads as well as the full PID tax


Commissioners' Response: We recognize that this may be inequitable. However, under state law there must be a public benefit associated with a public improvement district. As long as the roads are private, we cannot use PID revenue for their rehabilitation. If a subdivision with private roads is willing to make their roads permanently open to the public and commit to continue their responsibility for ongoing maintenance, we are willing to consider including those roads in the PID and eligible for rehabilitation . 

Public Comment: We would like to request to be excluded from the PID


Commissioners' Response: We have heard two types of requests for exclusion from the PID -exclusion of an entire subdivision and exclusion of currently vacant properties within subdivisions. Any petition by a subdivision to be excluded from the PID would have to be signed by each and every property owner in that subdivision. 

Owners of vacant properties can petition for exclusion, but will need to agree to be included in the district if and when the property is developed. The Board has discretion to exclude properties from the district after its formation in November, but before bonds are sold so a petition would have to be submitted very soon after the November election and prior to sale of any bonds.

Public Comment: Some say the Commissioners are trying to intimidate voters by moving forward with creation of a local improvement district, should the PID not be approved by the voters in November  


Commissioners' Response: It is clear that we have to address this problem now. The cost of delay are so great, and the impacts to safety and property owners so significant that we need to act. As we indicated last year at this time, we believe a public improvement district, with bonding, is the most responsible way forward because it is less expensive overall and to the taxpayers, results in improvements more quickly, is a long term solution that allows for cost effective long term management of the roads, and ensures accountability to the voters since the taxes cannot be increased without another vote. 

If however, the voters chose not support this PID, we will need to move forward with the LID, which is more expensive, improvements take longer, and the issue will have to address again in the future. We believe we are being absolutely transparent by clearly letting voters know the consequences of their choices. Not to do so would be irresponsible. 

Public Comment: Establishing an improvement district for this purpose is illegal and has not been done before

 
Commissioners' Response: According to the Dept. of Local Affairs there are currently 56 county local improvement districts, 71 public improvement districts, and 47 municipal special improvement districts in Colorado. Larimer County to our north requires that all unincorporated subdivisions create either an LID or a PID to fund all road related services for their subdivision roads. Since 1995 Gunbarrel General Improvement District and the Palo Park Local Improvement District were created for this purpose, and have since paid off their bonds. 



 

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