What do you want for Lakewood?

From the July edition of Looking@Lakewood

As a Lakewood resident, you have a lot of say in how your city operates, what kind of services it provides and how it spends your tax dollars. One of the critical decisions you make as a resident is determining the level of funding for your government. Residents must vote on any proposed new tax or any tax increase as required by both Lakewood’s City Charter and the state law known as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).

Lakewood City Council is discussing a potential ballot question for November about TABOR and how it affects funding for additional city services including open space purchases. Lakewood has launched a community conversation to listen to your opinions about the level of service the city should provide. This conversation involves your priorities and the kind of city you want to live in, so get involved and let us know what you think.

You can start by using this online resource center to participate in the discussion:

· Give us your thoughts by taking a survey.

· Watch City Council discuss the issue and hear residents during public comment.

· Ask questions.

· Find in-depth information and relevant documents.

· Learn from the video, “TABOR in two minutes.”

· Stay up to date on the discussion and meetings.

TABOR was approved by Colorado voters in 1992 as an amendment to the Colorado Constitution. It applies to all levels of government in the state including cities. TABOR is important because it controls the amount of taxes residents pay. Yet in turn, it limits the amount of services Lakewood can provide.

One of TABOR’s main requirements is to restrict the amount of money the city can collect and spend each year to the rate of inflation, plus an incremental growth factor. If the funds that Lakewood normally collects and spends on services grow faster than the limits in TABOR, Lakewood has two options. One is to ask voters to allow Lakewood to keep and spend that additional money it has already received for city services. The other option is for Lakewood to refund that money to property owners.

Lakewood voters have lifted the TABOR limits on the city’s budget four previous times. Those previous votes occurred in 1994, 1999, 2005 and 2007. In those instances, the voters lifted the TABOR limits for a specific project, a specific time period and for specific kinds of funds the city normally collects. Those earlier votes didn’t address the ongoing effect that TABOR has on the city’s ability to pay for services to residents.

Here is the kind of ballot question City Council is considering asking: Should Lakewood keep and spend TABOR funds on police, parks and transportation improvements? If you were to vote “yes,” TABOR limits on the city funds would be lifted, and Lakewood could spend the money on more of the services you value. If you were to vote “no,” the TABOR limits would remain unchanged, and the refunds would continue. Either way, the requirement that Lakewood residents must vote on any change in taxes remains in place both under TABOR and the City Charter.

What do you want for Lakewood? Do you want to keep services at current levels or do you want more parks and recreation offerings, improved safety and more transportation improvements? Whatever you choose, the city will continue to provide the highest quality services with the funding that is available. This is your money and your community, so please participate.

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