2007 10.02.07 City Council Meeting Minutes

Littleton City Council Minutes

October 2, 2007

Tom Mulvey is in the hospital and could not be at the meeting.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

 Unscheduled Appearances 

Jim DuBose, a member of the Greater Littleton Youth Initiative, invited everyone to attend the GLYI fall conference on November 9th at LHS.   

Scheduled to speak at 8:25 am is Dr. Del Elliott who “will discuss his work at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence and highlight the importance of Blueprint Programs for a healthy community and as key components of a greater violence prevention strategy.”

At 10:00 in the morning Dr. David Hawkins “will discuss his team’s cutting edge research as they seek to understand and promote healthy behaviors and positive social development among youth.”

For more information and to register please go to www.glyi.org.

 Consent Agenda 

1.  The 2008 budget and the 2007 milll levy passed on first reading. 

2.  The rezoning of the Electron site (southwest corner of W Belleview and Rio Grande) for a 350 multi-family residential units was passed on first reading. 

Doug Clark pulled an item from the consent agenda – the resolution authorizing an increase to the EMT transport fees for the EMT Enterprise.  In other words, a resolution to authorize the increase in fees charged for ambulance service.

Clark said when the Council approved the emergency transport service in 1999 the approval was based on the fact that it could be done for no additional labor or equipment costs for the City.  Council agreed not to charge for the service; “how could they charge for something that doesn’t cost us anything.”  Now we are charging for the service and 21% of the revenues are bad debts.

Clark continued, in 2006, 3,341 were billed for emergency transport and of those 1,068 billings went to a collection agency.  In 1999 the service was free because insurance would pay.  We were told that if people could not pay they would not be billed.  Now the cost for transport from the City is more expensive than from a private ambulance service.

The Chief said the increase would bring them up to a comparable level with others.  If the patient cannot afford the transport the City will waive the fee unconditionally.  Some of the delinquent accounts are sent to a collection agency and are collected through insurance.. 

Clark had a philosophical concern – there are 11 fire departments that Littleton is comparing itself to in the metro area and the cities have a monopoly on 911 calls so to compare their services to other fire departments is using a “very small universe.”  It is our job to provide the service without making a profit.  Why raise the rates if we are covering the expenses and projecting a positive cash balance in 2008?

Jim Woods said he understood the points Clark raised – we have to struggle how to reconcile this with GAAP.

Clark said he could live with either method of accounting but we ought to pick one and stick to it.

Larry Berkowitz said the main thing is there are enough revenues to cover the costs.  When the fund was started it was only to cover personnel costs but when funds accumulated they could be spent for other things related to the service.

Woods said the funds might be looked at in the future to pay for “rolling stock.”

Rebecca Kast said the important thing was to save lives with the Advanced Life Support service and we do it better than anyone else and insurance companies will pay for the services so we recover the costs.  If a citizen says they can’t pay for it we are fine.

Clark said, “but we don’t tell them” that they don’t have to pay for the service.

The Chief said they didn’t tell the citizens but we have the “best demographics” for insurance coverage in Colorado.

Clark said the figures are all very interesting but we still send 1/3 to collections.

John Ostermiller asked the Chief what percentage of the bills goes to collections and the Chief said 1100 out of 3341 in 2006.  There are a number of people that do not pay their deductible but the insurance company pays for the remainder.  Those uncollected accounts would be sent to the collection service and are included in the 1100.

Bruce Stahlman said the allowance for uncollectibles is 21%.

Amy Conklin wanted to know the difference between public and private emergency services.  The Chief explained that most EMTs working for private companies are putting their time in while waiting to get on with a fire department so the turn over is high.  The fire departments offer more pay, training, resources and equipment.

 Clark was also concerned about the transfer of money into the EMT Enterprise Fund exceeding the limit set by TABOR .  The staff could not tell Clark what fund money was transferred from into the EMT Enterprise Fund.  (If more than 10% of the Fund is coming from the General Fund then TABOR is being violated and the Enterprise Fund could not be an Enterprise Fund as defined by TABOR and the funds collected by that Fund would be subject to the TABOR limit.) The motion to increase the EMT fees was approved 5/1 with Clark dissenting. 

TABOR Refund 

The motion to appropriate the money to fund the TABOR refund was appropriated for a total of $1,149,484.00.  Of that amount $30,000 will be spent to process the refund.

 Public Hearing

Denny Fennell told the Council that since 1992 when TABOR was passed there has been a lot of water under the bridge and he was surprised that Berkowitz did not provide legal overview of how the refund could be handled.  He thought time could have been saved if a “white paper” depicting the 15 year experience with TABOR refunds would have been beneficial rather than trying to recreate the wheel. 

Pavlos Stavropoulos questioned whether or not the $30,000 was enough money to cover the costs of returning the refund by either of the two methods to be considered in the next agenda item.  He did not want Council to be limited on how the refund would be distributed based on the cost of the distribution method.

Kast said the Council had been assured that the $30,000 would cover either of the methods they would be considering.

Bruce Stahlman asked what would happen if the costs exceeded the $30,000.

Woods said staff would come back to Council asking for a transfer for the balance.

The motion to appropriate the money for the TABOR refund passed 6/0. 

Taylor responded to Fennel saying that there have been extremely few cases of refunding because so many entities had voted to override the TABOR limits so there isn’t much history to refer to.

 TABOR Refund – Which Method? 

There were two scenarios presented.

1.  Return the refund, in equal mounts, to the registered voters from 2006 when the excess was collected.

2.  Split the refund with $20 going to each registered voter from 2006 and the balance split among the property owners.

Woods told the Council there were 25,290 registered voters in 2006.  Alternative 1 would equate to a $44.26 check for each registered voter.  Alternative 2 would equal a $20 check being sent to each registered voter and a $37.20 check to each property owner of record.

Woods said Castle Rock is the only other municipality to refund TABOR excess and to a great extent Littleton is plowing new ground.  In terms of practicality, it is impossible to identify a single source for the excess.

Conklin said people could choose to return their check or just not cash it.

Ostermiller asked if the returned checks would go against the TABOR cap for 2007.  Berkowitz said it would be a gift.

Kast wanted to know how long people have to cash their checks.  Berkowitz said the checks would go “stale” in 90 days.  However, if someone came in with a stale check the City would issue them another.

Farmen said they would keep the checks on the books for 5 years – after that the check would revert back to the City.

Stahlman wanted to know if there was an estimate of how many property owners did not reside in Littleton.

Woods thought Tiffany Hooten could give him a ballpark number.  Her guess would be a 70.30 split.

Public Hearing 

Pavlos Stavropoulos told the Council, legal issues aside, trust is the concern.  He wanted the TABOR refund to be handled in a way to restore the broken trust between the Council and the citizens.  Woods mentioned that the TABOR limits would be exceeded at the same time community members were in the council chambers on the WalMart issue hearing that there would not be an excess.

Pavlos mentioned the confusing numbers – the September 18th minutes estimated the number of registered voters to be 7,000 more than the number mentioned tonight.  He suggested that they find a way to refund the money to as many citizens over 18 as possible.  He reminded them that perception is the reality.  Our City is divided and he urged Council to look at the best way to repair the level of trust between the Council and the citizens.

Jim DuBose said the on-going discussion proved that there is no good way to do this and it is much a do about very little.  The question on the ballot should have been can we keep the money and give it to Charlie Blosten for streets.  He agreed that Pavlos has a good point but this is a transparent effort on the Council’s part to regain the confidence of the people.  A $25 check is not going to do that.

Chuck ? said anytime there’s an incentive to get people to register to vote it is a good thing.  He suggested giving the refund to the people who actually vote.

Peggy Cole wanted Alternative 1.  She suggested the motion be amended to give it back to all registered voters that are registered by this November’s election.  They would have been the ones to vote if it was on the ballot this November.  She opposed Alternative 2 – she prefers that the money go to people who actually live in Littleton.

Kast said we are not trying to send the checks to people who were registered to vote in 2006.

Taylor said they were.

John Ostermiller told Pavlos the City had nothing to do with the numbers of registered voters.  If he has a problem with the numbers he should go to the County since they provided the numbers.

Carl Berry told the Council a lot of people, the silent majority, are happy and he played down the division in the community.  As a member of the Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee he favored Alternative 2 – how do we know registered voters paid any sales tax in Littleton.

Tony Gallagher said he followed the process and he did not really care what alternative was used.  Personally, I am going to give my check back and a lot of people feel the same as I do.

Clark moved to close the public hearing and to refund the money to the 2006 registered voters.  Kast seconded.

Kast said she has struggled with the decision and is leaning toward Alternative 1.  She knows there are a lot of property owners that do not live in Littleton.  There is no fair way but Alternative 1 is the simplest way.

Ostermiller said he wanted to include property owners in the refund because it would recognize our small business people, whether or not they live in the City.  They pay enormous property taxes and the all pay sales tax or use tax. 

Littleton has 120 sources of revenue and it is a hard to know where it all came from.  We know some came from the open space money.  There was an increase of $395,000 in sales tax revenue, $197,000 increase in property taxes, and $361,000 in gas franchise fees.

There are only two lists we can rely on – the voter registration list and the property tax list.  Let’s use both – we are in un-chartered territory.

Clark said it is true that property owners pay tax in Littleton but business owners are not the same as property owners. Broadridge and Woodlawn rent property to the businesses and none of them will get the refund unless they live in Littleton.  We don’t have a list of business owners – we have a list of property owners.  The voter registration list gets the money back to the most people including the renters.

Stahlman said there was no perfect answer.  He favors fewer checks and alternative 1 is faster and cheaper and would ultimately keep more of the money in Littleton.  Alternative 2 would distribute $50,000 to $100,000 outside of Littleton and with the holiday season coming he wanted more of the excess to be spent in Littleton.

Taylor said sales and property taxes are the two greatest sources of revenue and it is not fair to exclude one group from the refund.  He favors Alternative 2. 

The motion to return the money to the registered voters from 2006 failed on a 3/3 vote with Conklin, Taylor and Ostermiller dissenting. 

Kast moved to use Alternative 2, Ostermiller seconded. 

Stahlman asked what happens with a 3/3 vote.

Conklin asked Berkowitz if they had enough information on the record and Berkowitz abruptly replied, “Yes.”

Kast asked Farmen to try to cut the costs as much as possible by doubling up on stuffing the envelopes with all checks going to a particular individual.  Her problem with this alternative is that it is more complicated.

Farmen said he couldn’t quantify the time it will take to process Alternative 2.

The motion to refund the TABOR excess to both registered voters and property owners passed 4/2 with Stahlman and Clark dissenting. 

Kast said who said I can’t compromise.  I compromise all the time.

Clark asked the council to discuss a method for citizens to give the money back to the City.  He suggested two funds for the money.  He suggested a page be stuffed with the checks with instructions and an address for returning the money.

Kast said she had sent an email to the others about the same but did not hear back from anyone.  Ostermiller told her they had a 15 minute conversation about it.

Kast is concerned with the problems it would create for Finance and decided not to pursue it.

Conklin suggested “void” be written on the check and it returned to the City.  Berkowitz said writing “Pay to the Order” would be better.

Taylor said if the check is not returned the City will follow-up on the check for 5 years.  The checks need to be returned to the City if not cashed.

Farmen said he would prefer to talk to the bank to get proper instructions.

Kast did not want their attempt to look like the City’s trying to pull one over on the citizens.

Conklin made a motion to add a letter of instructions on how to return the check to the City if they wanted to make a gift to the City.

Clark seconded her motion.

Kast said it was important that the language clearly indicated that the letter was from the Council and not the staff and include the vote.

Clark asked Kast if that was an amendment to her motion.  She said, “Yes, okay, I will make it an amendment.”

Conklin asked if the letter would say the instructions were based on a vote and list who voted in favor and who didn’t.

Kast said yes

Conklin asked if it was accepted as an amendment.

Ostermiller asked if any of the returned checks would go into the General Fund.

Clark said it was getting complex and he was being talked out of it.

Kast said she was just trying to make it more personable.

Someone asked if the letter should be sent from the Council and Kast said that was what she was trying to say.

Woods told council to draft the letter and send it to them

Clark said we are trying to re-establish the trust by sending out the checks and we are defeating our own purpose.

Kast asked, “What’s the difference.”

Clark said you just talked me out of it – that’s the difference.

Conklin withdrew her second on the amendment.

Clark withdrew his second.

Woods said there wasn’t a motion on the table.  That was the end of the discussion.

Arapahoe County Block Grant.

Charlie Blosten presented the topic.  Littleton has received $150,000.00 in grant funds for community development.  The staff suggested transferring $22,500 of the funds to the Doctors Care project again this year.

Clark moved that the entire amount go to the streets and sidewalks in the neighborhood north of Littleton High School.  Clark said to transfer the money to the Doctors Care program once is an event; two times is a trend.  Our responsibility is streets, road, and public safety.  He did not want to start spending money on healthcare and it was not a healthy trend to give one program $25,000 when their contributions to other groups were much smaller.

Conklin disagreed and thought it was imperative to help Doctors Care.

Kast agreed with Conklin saying that the City is involved in healthcare in many other ways and does a lot of good.

Ostermiller said they had been doing this for the past 3 years and until the state and federal government figures out how to take care of the uninsured this is their small part to fix the problem.

Stahlman said the area north of LHS (his district) is in real need for infrastructure repair and he sees this as a safety issue for that community. 

Clark rattled off several organizations that provide indigent care.  If you believe in the “broken windows” theory they needed to spend the money in the neighborhood.  If the state and federal government are not doing a good job we need to take that problem up with them. 

Ostermiller said the projects in the LHS neighborhood are important but the extra $22,5000 will not make or break that project. 

Clark’s motion to spend the entire $150,000 on streets and sidewalks north of LHS failed on a 3/3 voted with Conklin, Kast and Taylor dissenting. Conklin moved to transfer $22,500 from the block grant to Doctors Care.  Kast seconded.  Motion passed 6/1 with Clark dissenting. BIAAC Taylor moved to appoint two new members to BIAAC.  Conklin seconded.  Clark thought people should have to apply just like all the other Boards and Commissions.  Motion passed 5/1 with Clark dissenting. 

Reports 

Ostermiller reported that a citizen wrote that her dog had been attacked by a coyote in her back yard.  She has written a document relating to the events and experiences from the attack.  The Department of Wildlife would not relocate the coyote because he would just become a problem for someone else.  The woman’s email explains what her neighborhood is doing about the coyotes. 

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