Littleton City Council Minutes – 5 August 2008

Littleton City Council Meeting

5 August 2008

 

There were two agenda items under General Business in reference to TABOR.  Because they were under General Business the public was not allowed to address the council on the two items at the time the council discussed the matters.  The public had to address the Council during the Unscheduled Appearances portion of the meeting and prior to hearing the Council’s opinions on the two items.

 The two agenda items were:

 12(a) Resolution approving a ballot question authorizing the City of Littleton to retain and expend all open space tax revenues received from the counties of Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson in Excess of its revenue/expenditure limitation as provided in the TABOR amendment, and

 

12(b) Resolution approving a ballot question authorizing the City of Littleton to retain and expend all revenues received in 2007, 2008 and 2009 in excess of the TABOR limitation on capital projects such as park and open space acquisition and roads and streets; and to adjust the base for the TABOR calculation.

 

Marty Bolt addressed the Council stating that the procedure does not allow the public access to Council to air out issues that the citizens may have – there is no opportunity for discussion except here where it isn’t a subject under consideration by the Council. 

 

Bolt thought 12(a) was good – the citizens had already passed the TABOR override at the County level.  However, 12(b) did concern Bolt.  He asked if the Title was correct – he was referring the “such as” language which he said would create a big hole for cost shifting.  He thought it looked like a permanent de-Brucing – it could be interpreted as such and you know what can happen if a Court is left to decide.  Bolt was concerned about the attached list of possible projects that could be funded when the language referred to open space and parks. 

 

Jack Randall said he was in total favor of 12(a) and suggested that they include language to capture any other funds that might be received for open space.

 

Jerry Valdes said he was in favor of 12(b) – put the question to the citizens.  He preferred to see the question divided into two – one to retain and spend for 2007-2009 and the other to adjust the base.

 

Bega Exchange

A motion was made by Doug Clark to direct staff to include $6,000 in the 2009 budget to start the process for an exchange program with Bega, Australia (our sister city).  The idea for the exchange was presented by the Mayor of Bega suggesting that every other year a city employee spend 2 weeks (or so) with their counterpart in the sister city.  The cost of the exchange was estimated to be $6,000.  John Ostermiller seconded and motion passed 7/0.

 

Sewer District Issue

Council voted 5/2 (Jim Taylor and John Ostermiller dissenting) to release a confidential memo from the city attorney prior to discussing the unhappiness of the outside Districts about their sewer rates.  Clark thought it was important for the citizens to know what is happening with the attempts to negotiate with the Districts.  Clark’s take on the District’s proposal was they know what they are doing and they don’t care or they have no clue what they are proposing and don’t know what they will do.  He did not know what to do with the attempt to negotiate.  Suzanne Staiert will be meeting with the water district’s attorneys on Thursday.

 

Taylor said he was on opposite sides with Clark on this issue and he was very opposed to signing the proposed agreement.  What happens if we don’t?

 

Clark said that was a discussion for an executive session.

 

Jose said he felt they were trying to pressure the Council and “to hell with them.”  Sue us – go ahead.  He did not see the reason for an executive session – the people need to know.

 

Taylor said very specific direction would need to be discussed with Staiert and negotiations should not be held in public.

 

Taylor moved to hold an executive session to discuss negotiations with their attorney.  (He did not site the portion of the law granting permission to meet in executive session as is required by the Open Meetings Law.)  Motion passed 5/2 with Jose and Tom Mulvey dissenting.

 

12(a) 

“It is estimated for the fiscal year of 2007 that the City will be in excess of the calculated growth cap by $1,630,400.  A factor in the calculated growth cap is the open space monies that the city currently collects from Arapahoe and Jefferson counties.  These monies are restricted for uses related to open space and are reported in the Open Space Fund.  This alternative would exclude this restricted funding source from the TABOR excess revenue calculation.”  (quoted from the Council Communication)

 

The discussion centered on the adjustment of the base.  In the past the base has not included the excess.  TABOR has some contradicting language so a conservative approach has been taken in the past.  However, the citizens can vote to adjust the base according to Staiert.

 

After much discussion Jim Woods said when the citizens passed the Open Space tax it is logical to assume their intent was that it should not be used against the base.  The question is whether or not the voter approved exclusions are included or excluded in the base.  Since 1992 the excess has not be included in the base.

 

Clark offered another clarification – if 12(a) is on the ballot and is passed it frees up $1 million in the General Fund even though it is Open Space money.  What happens if it is not passed – we have to refund the money and it will not be refunded from the Open Space money but from the General Fund.

 

Clark said if it is confusing to us the ballot question needs to be rewritten.  Staiert said if 12(b) passed with 12(a) we would not have a problem.  Clark moved that the item be referred back to staff for modification.  Peggy Cole seconded.  Cole asked about expanding the language as was suggested by Jack Randall.  Staiert said they could include some “catch-all” language.  Clark was uneasy with the direction it was going thinking it would further complicate the issue for the voters.  Adding other potential revenue streams changes the argument in favor of 12(a).  Clark’s motion passed 4/3 with Taylor, Ostermiller and Mulvey dissenting.

 

12(b) was moved by Ostermiller and seconded by Brinkman.  

 

Taylor said he did not support 12(a) because of the recent increase in Open Space fees.  We have Open Space money – we are $31 million short in capital projects and there is no way we will get that in excess TABOR money but it will make a dent.  The Council has override authority on how the money would be spent.  This is the question that does the better good for the citizens at large.

 

Jose said he was not in support of 12(b).

 

Brinkman was concerned about 3 years for deTaboring.  Her constituents are telling her they would like to see the money used for capital improvements.  That being said she thought the ballot question should be specific about how the money would be spent – a project identified along with the cost of the project.  She needed to be convinced that 3 years made sense.  It is a volatile issue and if we are going to do it we need to do it right. 

 

Osermiller asked how much it cost to run an election – $30,000 was the response.

 

Ostermiller then said do we want to just keep paying for elections each year.  The 5 year forecast, which is coming pretty close to predictions, shows a 2.5% increase in revenues and the expenses are going up at a rate of 3.5%.  The City will run out of money with the current trends.  The CPI does not take into account the price of fuel.  We can’t keep up with inflation.   We need to ask for 3 years and the money does not have to be spent in the 3 years.  He thought the refunds given for 2006 cost a lot of staff effort.

 

Cole asked citizens what they thought about the issue.  She was told by a significant majority of people in a diverse group of people that they would support it but for specific projects and not for an extended period of time.  The question needs to be phrased in a way that allows voters to tell us what to do.

 

Mulvey said he can’t support the question so soon after the previous election.  It looks permanent and he will vote no.

 

Clark said they were in a very interesting financial situation with $50 million in reserves – $36 million if you exclude the Enterprise Funds…..70% of all money under TABOR is in reserves.  He is concerned that anything done with this question this year will hinder the council next year when they hope to have a Court finding on the Water Fund.  He thought the only logical use for the Water Fund would be to pay down some of the long-term debt.  If we present it to voters and we have previously asked voters to use the excess TABOR money on projects they might ask us why we didn’t use the TABOR money to pay down debt. 

 

Clark was more concerned about the $12 million in the Water Fund than 3 years of excess TBOR money.  We have tens of millions in reserves and we want to tell the voters that we won’t do certain projects unless you override TABOR.  How do we reconcile both stories to voters?

 

Taylor said the same argument could be use for 12(a).  Clark said if the discussion was about reserves he would feel the same way.

 

Taylor asked if a question could be crafted for the November ballot.

 

Clark feared that given this election and the short period of time to campaign and raise money to campaign it will be too late.  We needed a City Attorney before we could put a Water Fund question on the ballot.

 

Brinkman moved to refer the issue back to staff with them providing a list of specific projects by year and the rationale for the projects. Cole said she would like to se an emphasis on increasing energy efficiency in the City’s buildings. 

 

Taylor said he was uncomfortable having the Council earmark their pet projects in political ways.

 

Brinkman restated her motion to refer the issue back to staff to prepare a detailed and accurate list of projects by year.  Cole seconded.  Taylor said he was worried about the “by year” – he thought a priority would be better.  Brinkman said that made sense.  Motion passed 5/2 with Mulvey and Jose dissenting.

 

Reports

Ostermiller said the staff has been directed to enter into an agreement with Rural Metro Ambulance Service as a backup provider.  A contract for Council’s consideration will be coming forward.

 

Brinkman moved to make retroactive the sales tax and use tax on solar installations to Jan. 1, 2008.  Mulvey seconded her motion.  Brinkman said she had brought this issue forward based on input from one of her constituents.  It was only after the motion was voted on and finalized that it came to her attention that the citizen that brought the idea forward was not eligible for the rebates. 

 

Cole said it was asked, at the time, if the Ordinance would be retroactive and they were told no.  She found it awkward to change an Ordinance in such a way.

 

Ostermiller thought the date was randomly picked – we had a public hearing.

 

Brinkman said the date was not random.  There had not been any applications since the seating of the new Council – January was a “clean date”.  This Council would not be changing anything that the previous Council had done.

 

Motion failed 3/4 with Cole, Clark, Ostermiller and Jose dissenting.

 

Council moved to their executive session

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