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Colorado Springs City Council member Joel Miller says voters should decide if local tax money is spent on a sports and event center.
He will ask his colleagues to put a question on the April 2015 ballot asking voters if they will amend the city's charter to require voter approval for any city stadium and events center. He announced his intention Tuesday at the City Council meeting.
"Building a stadium does not fall under the role of government, but in the latest City For Champions financing plan approved by the state, $200 million in local public money would be spent on the downtown stadium," he said.
Miller's proposal would be similar to an existing city charter rule approved in 2005 that requires voter-approval for any convention center. It says: "Colorado Springs shall be prohibited from planning, building, funding or financing a convention center with or without a hotel or another ancillary structure, unless a majority of voters gives prior approval to complete the project at a regular or special municipal election."
Miller may have council support to get the issue on the ballot. In March, five city council members signed a letter saying they would not authorize the creation of a special taxing district to finance the sports and events center without asking voters. Mayor Steve Bach said he is puzzled by Miller's proposal. The proposed downtown center would be built inside an urban renewal area, which is overseen by the Urban Renewal Authority. Under the plan, the URA would create a tax increment financing district and use a portion of sales tax collected inside the district to finance bonds. The City Council would need to update the URA plan to extend it by 20 or 30 years in order to oversee the bonds that would be used to pay for construction, Bach said.
"Miller and all of them know that only by a vote of the City Council could Urban Renewal Authority plan be extended," Bach said Monday, responding to Miller's announcement. "They already have absolute control. It is political grandstanding and an immense waste of time when what we should focus on is the economy and creating jobs."
In December, the Colorado Economic Development Commission awarded a percentage of future state sales tax revenue to help build four Colorado Springs projects, which is an estimated $120.5 million over 30 years that can be used to pay back bonds. The rest of the money must be raised from private and public sources. Organizers of three of the projects - a downtown Olympic museum, an Air Force Academy visitor's center, and a university sports medicine complex - have said they will not need local public money to fund the remaining portions of the their projects.
But the proposed sports and events center would need public money.
"After hearing from thousands of citizens, I believe that a public vote is the only fair and equitable way to approach a project that does not fall under the role of government, but has, and will most likely continue to reach into public wallets," Miller said.