Ballot Measure B asks the citizens of Grand Junction to leave their city government with excess TABOR funds as defined by the Colorado constitution. This column is an explanation of why voters should reject the city's proposal.
The city has been collecting more revenue than necessary to provide the essential services that we all expect. In 2007, the City of GJ asked taxpayers for permission to accumulate these excess funds to be used to pay off the Riverside Parkway bonds early, thus saving interest expense. The voters approved this proposal as it was well-defined and fiscally sound.
Current projections call for sufficient funds for the debt retirement to be in hand by the end of 2015. If Measure B is defeated, the city will be required to refund money to its citizens beginning in 2016.
The city has published what amounts to propaganda estimating the excess revenue to be $2 million per year. What has not been published by the city is that their calculation of "excess TABOR funds" has recently been proved erroneous. Current projections for the average amount of excess from 2016 to 2020 exceed $4 million per year.
The city propaganda machine has emphasized that a large percentage of any refund of their excess money will go to people who do not live in the city. The City Council's tunnel vision has only allowed them to talk of a refund of property tax and they make a big deal about the fact that many owners of property live elsewhere. In its typical arrogant fashion, the City Council, without seeking public input, concluded that a property tax decrease in the only viable option for refunding excess money.
Had the city sought input from the people, they would have learned of a much better option for refunding excess TABOR funds. All they need to do is give us all a credit on our water bills which will ensure that the refunds remain in the city. This has been done successfully in other Colorado communities with no legal ramifications.
The ballot measure infers that an election will be held before financial obligations commit the revenue to long-term principal and interest payments. The ballot does not disclose that the city will retain the option to issue "Certificates of Participation" (financial instruments that allow governments to commit future revenue without voter approval). Voters are urged to remember that, in 2008, the majority of voters said "no" to a revenue bond issue. The City Council then decided to issue Certificates of Participation that committed future revenue without voter approval.
The preliminary estimated cost of the road projects is $58 million. The ballot measure does not disclose this number. Obviously, the city is attempting to get voters to focus on how nice the projects would be without addressing the costs. This condescending attitude is insulting to the citizens of Grand Junction.
There is no plausible reason we should be deciding something in 2013 regarding excess funds that will not be available until 2016 or later. There will be another election in 2015. Approval of Measure B will tie the hands of future City Councils by reducing flexibility in addressing community needs while they are in office.
The city admits that the 29 Road project may actually not be feasible and will need participation by the county and the state. Yet they are asking us to pony up now. Doesn't it make more sense to do the planning and negotiations before asking the taxpayers to commit money?
Measure B does not include an end date for the money grab. It is likely that it will take 35 years or more to finish paying for all of the listed projects. If the average annual excess revenue is $4 million, taxpayers will commit over $140 million by passing this ballot measure.
Bottom line: Council members are asking taxpayers to entrust the city with millions of our future tax dollars. They then can do what they believe is best. These are the same people that show no trust in the citizens. All major topics the City Council addresses are discussed in meetings where proceedings are not recorded and minutes are not kept. Although they say their decisions are transparent, their actions contradict their words. This behavior should not earn them the trust of the citizens.
I urge the citizens of the City of Grand Junction to vote No on Ballot Measure B.
Simpson is a CPA and has lived in Grand Junction "this time 'round" for 17 years. He previously lived in Grand Junction in the '70s working as a CPA and coaching Little League Baseball in his spare time. He has spent 22 years in public accounting and 10 years in governmental and private accounting. He is married to Mary, has three grown children, and is an avid bicyclist.