Can a city that has to shut off its street lights to balance the budget really afford an $880 million water project?
The Post story today http://www.denverpost.com/ci_1… continues to examine what happens to a city of conservatives who refuse to raise taxes in an economic downturn. A budget shortfall of $24 million, compounded by the rejection of any tax increase, has resulted in closed swimming pools, turned off street lights, laid off police officers and firefighters, and suspended weekend bus service.
And while city services have been dramatically cut in response to a new era of austerity, the Colorado Springs City Council, acting though its utility department Colorado Spring Utilities, is proceeding with an $880 million water project known as Southern Delivery.
According to the Pueblo Chieftain http://www.chieftain.com/news/… , the Council has approved water rate hikes (not tax increases) of 12% for 2011 and 2012 and similar rate increases are expected though 2016, the projected completion date of the project.
The average homeowner will pay $5 more per month, and by the end of the project, Colorado Springs water rates will have doubled. The Chieftain goes on to say that “factoring in financing and inflation, ratepayers will pay $2.3 billion” for the project, which will bring water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs through a 60 mile pipeline system.
Colorado Springs is not out of water. There are no reported shortages. Current residents are not in jeopardy of loosing service-yet. The argument being made is that the city is relying too heavily on key infrastructure that is failing rapidly. And while Southern Delivery addresses the problem of deteriorating infrastructure, the reason for Southern Delivery is to ultimately provide for future growth. There is no other justification for a project of this size and scope.
Water rates should cover the cost of providing water service, but should water rates be raised in this manner to cover the cost providing service for people who won’t be residents of Colorado Springs for another 10 or 20 years?
Given the current financial state of the city, wouldn’t the $5 more per month Colorado Springs residents will be charged for water be put to more pressing items — oh like turning some of the street lights back on?