COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO — The Colorado Springs City Council heard the first of six presentations by city staff about special districts and how they operate at their work session Monday morning.
The overview was requested by council members some weeks ago. The impetus was attributed in part to problems with the Briargate Special Improvement Maintenance District (BSIMD) in District 2 Councilman David Geislinger’s district.
Ongoing problems with the organization and membership of the BSIMD, formed in 1983, and funding for its operations have resulted in several community meetings to try to find solutions to shortfalls.
For a variety of reasons, some 25% of homes physically within the boundaries of the district are not subject to district tax levies.
This series of information presentations is intended to give the council and citizens a better understanding of special districts and what they do.
Planning and Community Development Director Peter Wysocki and Carl Schueler, Comprehensive Planning Manager, set out the schedule for the information sessions.
Session one was a review of the state laws authorizing special districts, a review of the types of districts and what they are used for, a brief review of the history of special district legislation in Colorado Springs and information about Business Improvement Districts (BID).
Special district formation is authorized by state statutes, and while the city has oversight authority, operations are left up to the district’s board of directors. These districts are governmental agencies that have taxing and bonding power.
Schueler said there are 1,827 metropolitan districts, 62 BIDs and 54 General Improvement Districts (GID) in Colorado. “Together these three account for almost 50% of statewide taxing entities,” said Schueler.
He said some municipalities do not allow special districts, but that such cases are extremely rare. He did not mention any by name.
In Colorado Springs, Schueler said, “We’re up to about a hundred.”
The proliferation of special districts concerns Councilman Don Knight, and he approves of the Council taking a closer look at the city’s policies. “We’re getting just single street new developments,” Knight told Complete Colorado Wednesday. Once developers have completed a project they want to move on, leaving the repayment of the bonds to the residents.
“By the time the residential board take over all the debt is already obligated,” said Knight. “All they are doing is debt servicing.”
Questioning the order of the briefings, Council President Richard Skorman asked if the Council thought the arrangement of topic was appropriate. “The biggest contention seems to be around session six,” said Skorman. “That’s the part that…people in the community are concerned about. They are wondering about accountability [and] what structures we have in place to look at this. Certainly debt issuance is an issue too.”
Councilman Andres Pico said, “I think the structure is pretty good. This is the first bite at a pretty doggone big elephant and I think it will have to continue into January.”
Councilman David Geislinger concurred, “I agree with Andy that we need to start chewing on the elephant now. It’ll still look like an elephant come January, but maybe not as big.”
Councilman Yolanda Avila added, “I’m going to ask those out in the audience and in TV land that this is a real opportunity to understand these districts. They’re really complicated. I would encourage people to get out their pens and paper and listen to this series.”
The sessions are scheduled through December 9 and can be watched live both through the city’s online calendar page and on the Colorado Springs City Council Facebook page. Video recordings of past sessions are available both places as well.
Session 1- September 23, 2019
• State context
• General overview of types and uses of districts
• 2006 Special District Policy
Session 2- October 7, 2019
• Metropolitan Districts
• Special district submittal, review and approval processes
Session 3- October 21, 2019
• GIDs, LIDs and SIDs
• Mill levies and Gallagher adjustments
Session 4- November 12, 2019 SIMDs
• Special district financial obligations, debt authorizations and debt issuance
Session 5- November 25, 2019
• District powers and functions in addition to debt issuance
• District boards and elections/ TABOR
Session 6- December 9, 2019
• Contacts, annual reports, audits, data and disclosure
• District dissolution, or conversion to resident boards