At the April 24 Board of Directors’ Meeting, the Board discussed the scope of work to be used to develop a request for proposal (RFP) for a comprehensive incorporation study. The Metro District has received a grant from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) that would partially fund the study. With the Board election on May 8, the new Board of Directors will have to decide whether to continue with an RFP for an incorporation study and it is anticipated the Board could discuss this issue later this month.
Incorporation could happen more easily than most residents realize, and it is not necessarily up to the Metro District Board to place this issue on a future ballot. Title 31, Article 2, Part 1 of the Colorado Revised Statutes states that it only takes 150 registered electors who are landowners and residents to have incorporation placed on the ballot. As a result, it is important that residents are adequately informed on the issue and know the costs and benefits of such an action before it happens.
“A group of residents could determine that they want to pursue becoming a city completely independent from the Metro District, therefore it is important and prudent the Board of Directors understands the issue, and develop a plan should incorporation ever make it onto the ballot,” said District Manager Darrin Tangeman.
This is not the first time Pueblo West has explored the impact of incorporation, about 10 years ago a group of community members led an informal study. While this informal incorporation study was an excellent jumping off point for recent discussions, it is outdated and does not provide a detailed market analysis of the economic conditions required to understand the impact of incorporation.
The outdated informal study falls short of the information to be learned from a formal incorporation study. To clarify, a formal study is different than the informal study conducted by community members in that it would be completed by impartial professionals and subject matter experts specializing in the fiscal and organizational aspects of incorporation; and can provide market analysis, economic benchmarks, and required revenue thresholds if conditions are currently not appropriate for incorporation.
Since the informal study was conducted, the retail marijuana industry has been established; potentially an additional source of sales tax. Many residents are also unaware of the level of sales tax they actually pay outside of Pueblo West. In reality, Pueblo West residents pay approximately $3.5 million in sales tax to the City of Pueblo and other surrounding communities that are used to improve their infrastructure. If we could capture a portion of this revenue by new and existing businesses in Pueblo West, it would have a great impact on improving and maintaining our infrastructure. Most of all, Pueblo West is not capturing any revenue from the 1.8 million visitors that come through Pueblo West every year to go to Lake Pueblo State Park which clearly impacts our roads and infrastructure.
Ultimately, an updated formal and objective incorporation study would allow voters to make an informed decision should an incorporation measure be placed on the ballot in the future, as well as provide the information needed to aid the Board of Directors in formulating a plan to dissolve all or portions of the District if incorporation is successful. Discussions with local residents have demonstrated that community dialogue is largely based on outdated information and has served to perpetuate misinformation and misunderstanding on this issue. In the interest of democracy, every Pueblo West resident should be given these facts so that they can make their own decision.
Since 2016, the Board of Directors has directed staff to explore how Pueblo West’s incorporation would affect the community. In Fall of 2016, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ School of Public Affairs conducted a preliminary study free of charge to the District, to provide fundamental background information on the positive and negative impacts incorporation would have on residents, visitors, businesses, and property owners in the community. The UCCS study also provided foundational information on what it would take for Pueblo West to incorporate, as well as insights into what the District should do if a measure were to be placed on the ballot. Since December 2016, the staff has worked with the Board to develop a scope of work for a formal study as well as seek out grant funding to offset a formal study. Since the election of two new board members, Doug Proal and Matt Smith in May, further discussion on this issue will likely happen later in June.