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Why I’m Voting NO!
By Kathy Hare

          At first I thought I would "sit on the fence" when it came to the issue of incorporating Falcon.  "Let the voters decide," was my stance, and indeed voters will get that opportunity on May 29. 

          But after reading the Gazette article entitled "Falcon area gets its day of destiny," I was appalled by Tom Cline's statement that the incorporation committee doesn't have a town budget.  So, I started doing my own research.   First, I looked at the expenditures of other nearby towns and read the proposed "Town Charter."

          After that, I realized I can no longer keep silent - voters need the facts.  The stakes are too high and the tax burden and additional layer of government voters are agreeing to must be fully understood before the election.

          Marriages fail because couples are financially irresponsible.  Business owners who start a company without first developing a sound financial plan usually watch their dreams go up in smoke.  Obviously, it only makes sense to develop a budget before a vote on incorporation takes place, anything less is a recipe for disaster. 

           While I was unable to locate a nearby town that is the same size as the proposed incorporation area, these statistics will allow voters to make some comparisons to the actual expenses of other towns. 

          This is what I discovered after spending 30 minutes speaking to officials in Calhan, Woodland Park, and Monument.  All three towns are geographically smaller than Falcon, but both Woodland Park and Monument have a larger commercial base.  Each town maintains roads, provides police protection, and also funds and staffs both a town hall and planning department from a combination of sales and property taxes.

          The town of Calhan covers a mere 1.5 square miles versus the 12 square miles in Falcon.   It has eight full-time employees, including three policemen, and their annual budget is $828,000. 

          Unfortunately for the citizens of Calhan, their budget is not large enough to allow them to repair crumbling sidewalks or fill potholes in the few paved streets in town.  So the incorporation committee's estimated budget of $1 million generated by sales tax doesn't seem realistic to fund a town the size of Falcon.

          Woodland Park has 6.5 sq. miles but their population is twice as large as Falcon's.  They have about 75 employees and a budget of $16 million.

          Monument, with expenditures of $6 million per year, needs 45 employees to run a town comprised of 4.6 sq. miles.         

          Rich Landreth, public works director for Monument, said the square miles figure isn't as important as the number of "road miles."   That figure is absolutely necessary in order to determine what the town budget should be, whether the town council decides to maintain the roads or contract that job out to another government entity.  "Without that figure no one can predict how much it will cost to do road maintenance or snow removal," he said. 

          Monument has 28 miles of road.

          I called El Paso County and talked to Jolene Leno, engineering technician for the Department of Transportation.  I gave her a copy of the incorporation map given to me by Tom Cline and she was quickly able to deduce there are 47.46 "road miles" in the proposed incorporation area, with an additional 17 miles of roads still under construction in Falcon Highlands.

          Ok, so compare Monument to Falcon.  Monument with a budget of $6 million has about half the "road miles" in Falcon.  It appears that $1 million generated from sales tax is going to be woefully inadequate. 

          Because the incorporation committee didn't do the same research over the months they had to prepare for the incorporation election, I have also begun to question the $1 million figure.  At this point, I want to see the data to backup that figure.  The incorporation committee should be able to tell us the amount of taxable revenue currently generated by the Safeway and other Falcon stores.  And there should be financial data from other Wal-Marts in the area.

          While publicly the incorporation committee has stated all revenue for the town will come from a 1.6 percent sales tax, I think they must realize Falcon cannot be funded on a sales tax alone, and the "Town Charter" supports my suspicions.  Here is what it says.

ARTICLE VIII
TAXATION
§ 8.1 AUTHORITY TO LEVY TAXES

The Trustees may levy and collect taxes without limitation as to amount for municipal purposes which may include but shall not be limited to a 1.6 % sales tax. All new taxes or changes to existing taxes shall be approved by a vote of the people at a regular November election as defined within this document. No new tax or tax rate increase shall be effective until approved, if and as required, pursuant to Article X, §20 of the Colorado Constitution.

          So far I've concentrated on roads, but we all know there are more expenses to consider.  While I was unable to ascertain any of the actual costs for these expenditures, the charter says the town council will lease or buy land, presumably for a town hall and other infrastructure although that is not clearly stated.   The charter states the town council shall hire a town clerk, municipal judge, and there shall be a municipal court and town attorney.  The town may also hire a town marshal and town manager.

          While the word "may" is used in the reference to town manager, a town with a town council consisting solely of volunteers cannot function without a manager; there are just too many day-to-day responsibilities to rely solely on the council.

          Reading through the entire charter, I did see two articles of great concern to citizens who believe in "individual" not "collective" property rights.  While these articles have nothing to do with funding, I believe voters should be made aware of them. Here is the first one:

§14.2 RIGHT OF EMINENT DOMAIN

The Town shall have the right of eminent domain in support of Town infrastructure services such as, but not limited to water, sewer and electric. The right of eminent domain shall not be extended in support of a private free enterprise business.

          As a resident who lives in close proximity to the town center, and a vocal opponent to incorporation, that clause scares the hell out of me.  The use of eminent domain for any reason should not be part of this charter.  Whether the town council decides to grab water and sewage infrastructure from a private  resident or  Woodmen Hills for the town's use really doesn't matter.  It is morally wrong.

          The Black Forest Incorporation Committee has eliminated this article from their charter, so there is no reason why the Falcon Incorporation Committee could not do the same. 

          Finally I would urge you to read Article IX in the charter.  It deals with "Improvement Districts."  Simply stated, the town council can form special districts, decide what improvements are needed, hold an election, and the landowners within the district will "wholly or in part" be stuck paying for the improvements, whether they wanted them or not. 

          The city of Colorado Springs does this all the time to the downtown area, and a number of businesses go under each time because owners can't afford the improvements.

          We the people of Falcon will decide if we actually need another layer of government on May 29.   I want voters to make that decision based on facts - not empty promises. 

          I have examined the facts and that is why I'm voting NO on incorporation!

First published in The New Falcon Herald
Article Copyright © 2007 Bluestack Consulting, Inc.
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