Pueblo West Metro Board funnels excess tax revenue into pooling project
Excess property tax revenue collected in the Metropolitan District of Pueblo West in 2021 will be used to help pay for the construction of a new aquatic center after the Pueblo West Metro Board approved the transfer of funds on Monday.
The excess revenue of $873,164, as shown in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, should have been returned to the residents. However, Pueblo West voters approved a 2016 ballot agreeing to allow the district to keep excess revenue from 2017 until the end of 2026 for the construction of a new swimming pool.
At a public hearing on the matter on Monday, residents expressed concerns about the proposed aquatic center. Many have suggested that spending the money on road and infrastructure improvements would help the struggling district.
The current pool at 362 E. Hahns Peak Ave is over 40 years old and was built when Pueblo West’s population was 1,500. Today, the pool has to turn children away daily because it is full and Pueblo West’s population is approximately 33,000.
Eric Harriman said he was concerned about an additional burden on taxpayers once excess Taxpayer Bill of Rights revenue ceases to be collected at the end of the 10-year period. He said building materials and costs have gone up.
The cost of the aquatic center was estimated in January at between $8 and $10 million.
Harriman wondered if, if the district only raises $8 million by the end of the 10 years and $10 million is needed to complete the project, construction of the aquatic center should be subsidized by taxpayers.
Doug Proal, vice-chairman of the board, said that if there are not enough funds available at the end of the 10 years, a ballot initiative could be presented to voters to determine whether they wish to reallocate the funds for another use or to continue the project, but he noted that the board would not be in a position to make that decision.
More Pueblo West news:Planned Pueblo West Aquatic Center Could Benefit From Additional Tax Revenue
Residents worry about streets and water supply issues
“The infrastructure really needs work, the roads are collapsing and it’s a mess. It’s too bad,” said Pueblo West resident Gene Bidon.
“This council has no jurisdiction over the reallocation of this money,” Proal said.
“In 2016, voters voted yes whether we liked it or not,” said Nick Madero, board treasurer.
“Voters said, ‘We want an aquatic center.’ But voters turned us down twice for roads,” when 1% sales tax initiatives were on the ballot for road improvements, said board chairman Kim Swearingen.
Swearingen said the project has not started because the district will pay cash and the project will not be funded.
Harriman and fellow Pueblo West resident Melvin Manrose mentioned ongoing drought issues and urged council to be extra careful given the district’s currently limited water supply.
“We’re short of water and now we’re talking about creating an aquatic center,” Manrose said.
Manrose also asked how much water the pool would use.
Pueblo West Utilities manager Jim Blasing said he estimates the pool will take 300,000 gallons to fill, then use smaller amounts of water to “fill as needed.”
However, Pueblo West Board Secretary Joe Mahaney said an online search indicated an Olympic-sized pool would require 666,000 gallons to fill, or about 2 acre-feet of water. One acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons of water.
The 2 acre-feet estimate is “enough water to supply four to six homes for a year,” Mahaney said.
Swearingen said refilling the pool “isn’t much of an issue” as the Pueblo West sewage treatment plant produces 12 to 14 million gallons of water a day in the summer. She also said the pool’s design committee was probably looking for a way to recirculate the water to reduce usage.
The aquatic center fund is also bolstered by 30% of marijuana excise tax funds collected since 2019, as well as conservation trust funds. Swearingen said the aquatics center committee is also looking for grants and sponsors to help cover costs.
Harriman and others also questioned the need for the pool in Pueblo West, pointing out that the city of Pueblo is planning a $40 million aquatic center as part of the expansion of the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo and that the town of Pueblo and the YMCA also have swimming pools.
Pueblo West resident John Wodniak said that although he’s retired and doesn’t have kids at home, he sees the benefit of having a pool. But he expressed concerns about the future of the global economy.
“Are we at the edge of the Royal Gorge and standing on a banana? When I look at reality, I wonder if it’s not the right thing to do at this point,” Wodniak said.
The district hopes to build the 17,514 square foot aquatic center on district property at 756 and 770 E. Spaulding Ave., west of Purcell Boulevard. Mahaney said soil conditions are marginal at the site and elsewhere in the district, so the cost of the pool will likely include digging out the soil and replacing it with compacted fill soil.
Pueblo 70 School District Board Member Cathy Howland, speaking as a private citizen, said Pueblo West High School is “growing by leaps and bounds and eventually we will have to build a new high school up north. of the United States 50. She suggested the board find a site on the north side so the school district might help with the costs.
Ballot question will ask voters to approve excess sales tax revenue
In other business, the board approved a Nov. 8 ballot question that will ask voters to allow the district to retain all revenue generated by a 1% voter-approved sales tax in November 2020. The tax fire and safety sales force was expected to generate between $1.7 million and $1.8 million last year to help build, staff and equip a new fire station, according to Brian Caserta, district manager and chief firefighters.
The original language of the ballot was to include a cap for the first year of collection. The district asked to keep $2.5 million a year, which was considered a safe number at the time. However, the tax brought in $3,773,826, a surplus of $1.2 million.
The new ballot question does not increase or extend the tax beyond its 10-year sunset, but asks voters to waive the $2.5 million cap, as district staff now estimate that the tax could raise just under $5 million by 2023. Caserta said groundbreaking new fire station is expected to arrive this fall.
The council also approved an HPD Enterprise bid of $155,971 to build a water main between Tequila Drive and Siesta Drive, which was approximately $100,000 under budget.
The council also approved an agreement with Gem Homes LLC, which requires the homebuilder to pay $30,000 or $5,000 per lot at the time each lot on the 400 block of LaPorte Drive is built to cover road reconstruction.
More pool news:Pueblo West Metro Board dives into pool plans