woman smiling, wearing glasses and a suit
Ann Hutchison
President & CEO

For comments and questions about this blog, please email Ann at [email protected]

2024 – The Year Ahead

by | Feb 6, 2024 | From the CEO

woman smiling, wearing glasses and a suit
Ann Hutchison | President & CEO

For comments and questions about this blog, please email Ann at [email protected]

The Fort Collins Area Chamber has made advancing a business-friendly environment a key priority.  One of the tools that we use to help our membership understand the consequences and opportunities created by policy decisions is our monthly Advocacy Newsletter.  We are happy to share the feature story from our January 24 newsletter here:
As I reflect upon all the incredible changes we’ve witnessed within the business environment over the past few years, I can’t help but consider what lies ahead over the coming months.
Before diving into what we see coming forward at the state and local level, I’m pleased to announce a new tool we are rolling out to help you stay informed on happenings at the State Capital. You can learn more here: https://ncla.biz/. A big shout out to our partners at OTM for their leadership on this project!
By now you are aware your employees are eligible to access the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program, and you’ve likely already received your rate notice from the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment for unemployment insurance. The form looks different this year, with the intention of making the total premium more transparent. Your Base Rate and Support Rate are broken out separately, though your premium likely went up due to the Solvency Surcharge, which had been suspended since 2021. The Unemployment Trust Fund went into the red by $1B during the height of the pandemic. Though the Legislature appropriated $600M in federal stimulus funds to reduce the debt, statute requires the fund to carry a surplus balance that should be achieved by 2026, barring further calamity.
You may also be aware the Legislature went into special session in early December to address property taxes following the defeat of Proposition HH in November. Though some relief was offered to residential property owners, no such consideration was extended to the commercial sector. So far, we haven’t heard whether lawmakers will address commercial property rates, though we do know the assessment rate will revert to 29% for 2025, from the temporarily reduced rate of 27.9%.
Adding to the mix for property tax relief are two 2024 ballot proposals: Proposition 50, which would limit annual increases to 4%, or a separate citizen initiative that seeks to reset property taxes to the 2021 level with a 2.5% maximum annual increase.
In a related note, the Larimer Board of County Commissioners will provide some relief by temporarily reducing the assessment mill rate on properties equal to $5.5M for 2023 taxes due in 2024. Though taxes will most certainly increase for many commercial property owners, the credit will provide a modest reduction from the full increase that might have otherwise occurred. Tax notices are expected to go out in late January, with the first half due on or before February 29, 2024.
Though we haven’t seen language yet, we expect to see the return of Fair Workweek legislation at the Capitol. Killed in committee last year, sponsors have vowed to bring a revised bill forward with the intention of providing workers in the food and beverage industries greater certainty of work hours, income, and rest breaks regardless of business activity.
Air quality will also be the subject of much effort both within the legislature and at the Air Quality Control Commission. We see no serious effort to reconcile the disparity between native and foreign-borne pollutants, which is the primary source of adverse conditions that have triggered our Serious Non-Attainment status designation from the Environmental Protection Agency. Though oil & gas operations have become the center of attention, electrification of the commercial vehicle fleet remains a high priority as the State moves toward its goal of a fully-electric vehicle fleet by 2050. Under the federal Infrastructure Law, Colorado has been awarded $57M to create a network of charging facilities along major transportation corridors over the next five years.
Speaking of electrification, rules concerning statewide Building Performance Standards went into effect on October 15, 2023. These standards impact public buildings of 50,000 sf or more. The City of Fort Collins already requires Energy and Water Scoring for properties of 5,000 sf or more, so the State regulations only impact properties outside the city limits. However, the issue is scheduled to come back before the Fort Collins City Council this spring. We will be paying close attention to any modifications that expand the scope of the current program. Locally, we anticipate our newly-elected Fort Collins City Council will continue efforts to address air quality and accelerate energy source conversion. We hope to have a better grasp of intent following their upcoming retreat on January 27.
As the City continues to pursue infrastructure replacement and system upgrades, utility rates for 2024 will increase 3% for stormwater, 4% for water and wastewater, and 5% for electricity. In future years, expect to see electricity rates increase as much as 7% annually as Platte River Power Authority anticipates the base rate will increase 5% annually for the foreseeable future as its own energy conversion plan proceeds while the City of Fort Collins works to bring capital needs up to date.
Staying in the City utility lane, Water Supply Requirements and Excess Water Use Fees are scheduled for reconsideration by Council later this spring. As well, adjustments to Capital Expansion Fees, assessed on all new development, is scheduled for consideration in April. All of these issues will be monitored very closely.
On the housing front, it appears there will be a third attempt at revisions to the Land Use Code this spring. We are anxious that the code will be significantly watered down by removing provisions that seem to have drawn the greatest acrimony from opponents. It remains to be seen whether any changes will be considered acceptable as the rhetoric is fluid and highly charged. At the same time, the Fort Collins Area Chamber remains dedicated to creating an environment that allows us to address our local housing crisis with land use being one of many tools that must be updated.
In a related note, the notorious U+2 Occupancy Ordinance will most certainly be replaced with a standard based upon minimum square footage requirements per occupant. Should the City fail to address this directly, House Bill 24-1007 has already been introduced to override local control of the issue.
In short, we anticipate very animated dialogue with our local and state elected leaders and policymakers in 2024. Perhaps our bold voice, measured tone and thoughtful approach will find favor within the turbulence of bluster and incivility that has come to define the public sphere.
Most sincerely, we extend our great thanks for your continued commitment to strengthen and expand a diverse, dynamic and resilient business environment. Our shared success will rely upon your health and wellbeing, so please take the time necessary to care for your whole self. Your Chamber staff will sweat the details.