County may ask voters to give $2M in extra cash to parks

The ballot question concerning the $2,044,078 in excess revenue from 2013 will be discussed at Tuesdays regular board meeting. If the initiative makes it onto the Nov. 4 ballot and gets the nod from voters, the money would not only help the push to acquire Jones Park but could also help fund needed projects in other parks, such as Bear Creek Nature Center, Elephant Rock, Kane Ranch and the county fairgrounds.

County administrator Jeff Greene addressed the Colorado Springs Utilities Board on Wednesday in an effort to sway Colorado Springs Utilities from giving the 1,191-acre Jones Park area to the US Forest Service. Utilities has owned the land for more than a century but is ready to give it up because of costs associated with keeping endangered fish safe.

Commissioner Sallie Clark, who represents District 3 in the western part of the county, said it is important to maintain local control and allow El Paso County residents more access to the planning process for Jones Park moving forward.

I just think that keeping it under local ownership has its advantages, Clark said, noting that the extra money from 2013 is good news that the economy is turning around.

Under the Colorado Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the excess revenue would have to be returned to the residents of El Paso County if the ballot measure were to fail. According to a news release from county spokesman Dave Rose, the refund would come in a one-time property tax refund of about $8 per property owner.

At Wednesdays meeting, Greene said the county would keep the area open for recreation. The county has promised $200,000 for improving trails in such a way that the endangered greenback cutthroat trout would not be harmed, he said.

Federal and Utilities officials maintain that the Forest Service is better equipped to take care of the land, the trails and the trout.

The commissioners will consider the ballot question at two meetings before deciding whether or not to put it on the ballot. The second reading would be at the Sept. 2 County Commission meeting.

The board will also hear a second reading of another ballot question in which voters could share their thoughts on a 20-year fee structure that would fund the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority. The fee hike of about $7.70 per residential household would help pay for emergency stormwater projects.

When asked if two ballot questions asking to use tax money might lead to more voters turning against one or both, Clark said she didnt think that would happen.

I think people distinguish one ballot initiative from another, she said. I hear every day that parks and open spaces and quality of life are major issues for people.

Contact Matt Steiner: 636-0362

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