Park tax increase advocates say it ‘could make a dent’ in fixing parks and trails

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.- A ballot measure to double a sales tax in Colorado Springs for parks, trails, and open spaces will be on the ballot this November, and supporters say it is needed to keep up maintenance.

The Trails, Open Space, and Parks (TOPS) tax currently helps to preserve trails, open spaces, and parks through a 0.1% sales tax by the City of Colorado Springs. The new measure would increase the current tax by a cent to 0.2% on a $10 purchase.

Trails and Open Space Coalition’s executive director Susan Davies is a long-time advocate of the tax and says this increase would help fix local parks and trails that have been through years of use.

“We have miles and miles of trails that were built 20-30 years ago that are now crumbling and they need to be fixed. This isn’t going to fix everything but it’s going to make a huge dent in the problem,” Davies said.

Advocates say the sales tax increase won’t add up to much out of the pockets of residents. But If passed, it will have the capability of adding an additional $11 million more for parks in 2022 and would extend the tax through 2041.

“We have playgrounds that need to be fixed, we have irrigation systems that need to be fixed, and sometimes when we fix these things, we save money,” Davies said.

A study found $270 million is needed to fix the current status of parks, trails, and open spaces around Colorado Springs. Supporters say the increase could not only help put a dent into this but work to also address approved parks that have not been developed yet.

“There are 15 parks that are scattered throughout the city that were promised to neighborhoods that haven’t been built yet. We have 132 neighborhood parks, we have another 10-15 community parks. There just isn’t enough dollars,” Davies said.

If passed, the tax would still remain the lowest of its kind along the Front Range, with many cities such as Denver, Fort Collins, and Boulder taxing its residents more.

“We’re one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. This tops initiative is going to take the one penny to two pennies and it’s going to get all kinds of great things done,” Davies said

Voters should see the question on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Special Municipal Election as follows:

Shall City taxes be increased $11,134,000 annually beginning Jan. 1, 2022, and by whatever amounts are raised in years thereafter, by increasing the rate of sales and use tax dedicated to trails, open space, and parks (TOPS) from its current rate of 0.1% (one-tenth of a cent) or 1 penny on every $10 purchase, to 0.2% (two-tenths of a cent), or 2 cents on every $10 purchase, except for purchases of prescription drugs, food and other purchases exempted from sales tax, without changing the purposes, which include:

  • Preserving fragile ecosystems, natural areas, scenic vistas and areas, fish and wildlife habitats and corridors, and important areas that support biodiversity, natural resources and landmarks;
  • Conserving natural resources, such as water aquifer recharge areas, surface water and forest lands;
  • Acquiring, developing and maintaining open space lands and trails; and
  • Acquiring, developing and maintaining parks.

With all expenditures based on recommendations of an advisory committee and subject to independent audit; with no more than 5 percent of revenues derived to be used for administration, planning and program management, and no more than 25 percent for maintenance and operations of all city parks, trails and open space lands, and the remaining revenue divided into 40 percent used for acquisition, development and maintenance of all parks, 30 percent for acquisition, development and maintenance of all trails, and 30 percent for acquisition, development and maintenance of all open space lands, regardless of how acquired; and with the intent of the voters that monies derived from the increase should not offset expenditures from the general fund; and extending the expiration of the TOPS sales and use tax to and until Dec. 31, 2041; the above constituting a over-approved revenue change and exception to any constitutional, statutory and charter revenue and spending limitations that may otherwise apply?

To learn more about TOPS and its history, visit this website.

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