Due to the ongoing infrastructure costs for future subdivisions, Colorado Springs property tax rates might increase. With the main tool for building new infrastructure, Metro districts have collectively issued $660 million in debt and could reach $1 billion if all bonds close. Carl Schueler is now the comprehensive planning manager. Nancy Henjum, a councilwoman in the metropolitan district, says in a recent meeting that the new policy for guiding future planning will be useful to residents.
Districts need flexibility on how they raise revenue because infrastructure costs have risen. Doug Stimple, CEO of Classic Homes, served on the advisory board that helped shape the district policy change. Cost increases are driven by rising petroleum costs, which affect PVC pipes. The new residents have increased the demand for infrastructure, which the city can’t afford because of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. District financing has essentially been a tool to provide funding for the developers. District financing is an efficient, quick and easy way to get funding.
The council is considering raising the mill rate to 50 to pay off debt and 20 for operations, maintenance, and covenant enforcement. This new cap is in accordance with federal law and on par with El Paso County. Districts spend about 40% to 50% of the budget on infrastructure, according to Stimple.
If any individual districts wanted to increase their property taxes, they would have to come before the city council. There are about 60 districts in the metro area, including neighborhoods that do not currently contain residents. Developers are trying to control the interest rates for bonds owned by the developer. They can be no higher than 4% over an indexed rate for highly-rated bonds. The Colorado Springs property tax increase could also cap how much interest the bond can earn for investors. El Paso County does not have a maximum on interest rates – so these limitations may be beneficial. Kristi Pollard of the Metro District Education Coalition said such a cap is an innovative change. Pollard also said that a decrease in housing costs will help solve the problem of padding pockets. In other communities, like Seattle, landlords can only charge one cap for utilities and for rent.
Once neighborhoods are built, metro districts are meant to transition from developer-controlled to resident-controlled boards. These boards are meant to take care of plans for the neighborhood and take care of financing, but transitions can be tough. It was shown that only about 10 districts in the city have transitioned. The majority of the boards had one or two are more resident members, but there were not many with a majority of resident members.
A new state law requires metropolitan districts to let all property owners know if they can run in elections. The education coalition is collecting data on the mailings, and hopes that they will help homeowners become better educated about their voting rights.
The council was expected hear public comment on the new metro district policy and vote on it August 9.