by Anthiya Adams, staff writer
The November 7, 2023, election is here. If you are struggling to understand the local and statewide ballot measures, look no further. For some, the language used to explain the ballot items can be confusing and deter some from voting or cause them to miscast their vote.
Some would say this is intentional, or by design, and others would say that it is because they are written by legal experts. Whitney Quesenbery and Dana Chisnell, from the Center for Civic Design, say that “the biggest complaint [they] hear in [their] research with voters is that ballot questions seem written to purposely confuse them.” The pair also note the importance of doing your research ahead of going to the polls.
Colorado’s mail-in voting system allows voters an opportunity to read and research at their own pace. The issue then becomes knowing where to find reliable sources that can accurately break down the ballot legalese into simple language that does not require a law degree to understand.
Colorado Springs voters will cast ballots for several measures this November. Here is a breakdown of current ballot items, what they mean, and where you can find more information about each.
Colorado Proposition HH
Prop HH asks voters if state residential and commercial property taxes should be reduced. HH would include tax relief for certain groups or entities. The Colorado General Assembly’s 2023 State Ballot Information Booklet explains what a vote for or against Prop HH means: A yes vote would reduce property taxes for ten years but would also allow the state to keep and spend excess funds that would normally be refunded through the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, otherwise known as TABOR. A no vote for Prop HH would keep taxes, refunds, and TABOR as is. TABOR caps the amount of money that the State can keep or spend.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, economist Arthur Laffer, Advance Colorado Action President Michael Fields and Republican State Representative Rose Pugliese debated over Prop HH with Polis arguing for HH, saying that with it “everyone saves a lot” and Fields arguing that “you’ll pay 30% more in property taxes and you’ll lose your TABOR refund checks forever,” according to Colorado Newsline.
The Ballot Information Booklet, known as the Blue Book, further offers an in-depth look at the impacts for low- and high-income taxpayers through the year 2032.
Colorado Proposition II
Prop II asks voters if the state can keep and spend tobacco and nicotine product tax revenue and invest $23,650,000 in the Colorado preschool program instead of reducing or refunding these taxes to wholesalers and distributors.
The State Ballot Information Booklet also explains that a vote for Prop II will also allow the State of Colorado to keep the taxes collected from tobacco and nicotine product sales and spend $23,650,000 to support preschool programming instead of reducing or taxes for wholesalers and distributors.
City of Colorado Springs Ballot Issue 2A
Issue 2A asks if the city of Colorado Springs can keep and spend $4,750,000 on a new police academy without increasing taxes.
The 2023 Coordinated TABOR Notice says that voting yes for Issue 2A will supply funding to improve and expand the Colorado Springs Police Department Training Academy. 2A funding would not require a tax increase and will allow the academy to train more police officers and provide continuing education for current officers which will reportedly “contribute to building a safer Colorado Springs” according to the TABOR Notice.
The notice also says that voting no for 2A ensures taxpayers receive their TABOR refunds and reduces government spending. The summary against 2A reminds voters that they voted to raise taxes in 2001 which included funding for training and further argues that this would have taxpayers paying twice instead of adapting “existing facilities.”
Colorado Springs Mayor, Yemi Mobolade and Police Chief, Adrian Vasquez support 2A. Mobolade’s State of the City Address which included his comments that voting for 2A “‘is a vote for public safety’” and Vasquez’s comments that “the department doesn’t have enough space to simultaneously offer training to recruits and existing officers” according to Colorado Public Radio’s Abigail Beckman.
El Paso County School District (Academy) Ballot Issue 4A, is a proposed property tax increase. A mill levy refers to how property taxes are assessed or the rate at which property is taxed.
The TABOR Notice summary says voting for 4A would allow District 20 to recruit and keep quality educators and staff, bring on dedicated security officers for elementary schools, maintain facilities, and fund charters.
Interestingly, there were no comments against 4A in the TABOR Notice or none that were filed before the deadline. However, Colorado Springs resident, Andrew Hitt, offered his argument to the Gazette Letters section, where he says to “ignore the popular distracters listed in 4A, which by design do not require any mandatory allocations from the $35M annual tax increase; our increased taxes will go to the general fund which is discretionary.”
Voting against 4A would mean that District 20 would continue working within the same budget.
Flying Horse Metropolitan District No. 2 Ballot Issues 6C, 6D, 6E, and 6F are tax decrease measures that deal with how much the district can borrow and its contract and agreement authority.
Ballot Issue 6C asks voters if the previously approved limit on borrowing be reduced. Voters authorized a maximum of $129M in borrowing, in 2004, for the district of which $61.3M is unused.
The TABOR Notice summary comments for 6C says that voting yes will decrease the amount of money that the district can borrow, and taxpayer approval would be needed to approve new debt.
While summary comments against 6C were not filed, the comment summary FOR 6C offered that voting no, means that the district would be able to borrow up to the previously approved limit without further taxpayer input.
Ballot Issue 6D is also a tax decrease on a referred measure that speaks to the district’s ability to commit to contracts, agreements, or covenants that pertain to taxes or fees.
Voting yes on Ballot Issue 6D, will remove the district’s authority to commit to “multi-year agreements or contracts and commit taxpayer funds” unless they receive taxpayer approval, according to the TABOR Notice.
Ballot Issue 6E is another tax decrease on a referred measure that will revoke the district’s authorization to borrow up to the previously approved limit.
Voting yes on 6D will reduce the limit on the amount of money the district can borrow, according to the TABOR Notice. Also noted was that voting no allows the district to keep its previously approved borrowing limits as is.
Ballot Issue 6F is yet another proposed tax decrease on a referred measure that revokes “the district’s authority to enter into multi-year agreements or contracts and commit taxpayer funds over multiple years without first obtaining approval from the Flying Horse homeowners and taxpayers” according to the TABOR Notice.
No comments were filed by the deadline against any of the Flying Horse Metropolitan District No. 2 Ballot Issues.