Community Investment or Just a Wish List?

Jul 29, 2014 | Economy, Government & Policy

For decades residents of Fort Collins have elected to tax themselves to pay for public investments they wanted to improve their community.

It started in 1973 with a ballot measure popularly known as “Building Tomorrow Today.” Over the decades that followed, there has been a series of tax measures on the ballot with a specific list of proposed community projects and a tax that sunsets after a specific period of time. You should review the list of tax measures and the projects they funded, which you can find here. It’s a remarkable list and a great example of enlightened self-governance. This approach has helped make Fort Collins one of America’s most livable places.

The magic of the process is that it is voluntary taxation to accomplish important things over a specific period of time. City officials – electeds and staff – have honored the trust by doing what voters approved. (One exception would be Prospect between Prospect Parkway just east of Timberline and I-25. It was to be widened to 4 lanes. Instead, it remains only two lanes but with more turn lanes.)

The latest iteration of this series of tax measures was called “Building on Basics.” Known as BOB, the tax is due to expire December 31, 2015. The imminent sunsetting of this tax has set a planning process in motion at City Hall to identify the next set of projects to propose to voters next April.

Now is the time to begin tuning in to the process. The reason is because wants substantially exceed needs as everybody adds their projects to the list. At this point the ‘wants’ list is approximately $421M to $456M (capital cost only) and $484M to $584M when 10 years of operations and maintenance are added. This far exceeds the projected revenue of $80 million over 10 years.

The risk is that pet projects or things that are routine will dominate the list instead of things that are genuine investments in the livability of the community.

The Chamber has not offered a specific list at this point in the process because it’s still early but we have a bias towards transportation mobility. In particular, street projects that improve traffic flow should be given priority.

If you want to see the larger list as it now stands, go here and their descriptions here.

The City Council will be taking this issue up at a special retreat on Saturday, October 11 (location and time to be determined).