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Wildfire mitigation funded by city revenue surplus possible for Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS (KRDO) -- Local fire experts often express the need for regular wildfire mitigation, or removal of excess grasses, brush, trees and other vegetation, that could fuel wildfires.

Such mitigation was important in limiting the spread of the Bear Creek Fire on the city's central western border last fall, but funding for mitigation is generally limited.

"We have to apply for grants to get most of our funding," said Brett Lacey, the city's fire marshal. "Sometimes it's plentiful, sometimes it's nonexistent. So having a steady funding stream would enable us to do more specific planning."

That's where voters may be able to help.

Mayor John Suthers is considering a November ballot measure asking citizens to allow the city to keep around $15 million in extra tax revenue; the city would use interest on that amount to finance additional mitigation efforts.

"That would be several hundred-thousand dollars," he said.

The TABOR amendment (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) requires local governments to refund revenue surpluses to citizens unless voters allow those surpluses to be retained for other purposes.

The track record for TABOR retentions is good in Colorado Springs, with voters approving most city requests to keep extra revenue.

Suthers said that last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city didn't have a revenue surplus.

On Thursday, a fire department crew was doing mitigation work in the University Village and Park neighborhoods near the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs campus.

Additional funding could also result in more mitigation by property owners because the fire department's Firewise program -- in which piles of excess vegetation are removed free of charge -- may be expanded from once a year to twice annually.

Suthers said that he expects to ask the City Council to approve the ballot measure soon.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. Surplus revenue should be used on the streets – which are still an absolute joke after spending $300 million+ on them. It’s been 6 years and little improvement is evident.

  2. Give more taxes? You guys don’t know where the current tax money is going now aside from the money our elected officials are putting in their own personal coffers.
    You are using 2C money to repair some of the newest roads that have been added to the town on the north end of town while the oldest parts of town, not downtown or in the Broadmoor, Kissing Camels, Mountain Shadows.
    I had seen that the Bott Cemetery recently had their roads repaved with brand new asphalt.
    It’s nice that the cemetery has better roads inside than the roads one has to drive on to get to the cemetery itself. Seems the city government administrators and elected officials have a good grasp of seeing the bigger picture… /sarcasm off
    When does the city leaders actually intend on using the 2c money where it is needed?
    Or are you going to repair more curb ang gutter and say you ran out of money again and need another extension because the roads still are reflecting our cities leadership’s strategy? Full of holes, cracks, crumbling apart and waiting for someone to come along and fix it.

  3. So you want taxpayers to subsidize all the wealthy homeowners that bought overpriced houses in the fire areas and are now scared there might be a fire. No thanks, as stated above, use the money for streets or something that benefits the whole community, not just a few rich homeowners that made a poor conscious choice to live where there is a fire risk!

    1. the developers should be creating everything you mentioned and footing the bill for it too. Mitigation, sufficient fire exits, etc.
      But developers are Suther’s bed partners.

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