Voters deliver ballots at the drive-through ballot drop-off outside the Denver Elections Division in downtown Denver in November 2012. (Denver Post file)

Colorado cities voting on taxes, pot, broadband and bees in 2015

From municipal bonds to backyard bees, broadband and transportation from the mountains to the plains, voters in more than 80 Colorado cities and towns are deciding a wide range of local issues on the Nov. 3 ballot.

“If there’s an overall theme here, it’s investments in the future,” said Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, examining the wide variety of decisions facing voters.

DOCUMENT: Colorado Municipal League review of 2015 ballot measures

Among the big-ticket decisions:

• Denver voters will be asked to extend tourism-based taxes to direct up to $778 million to help redevelop the National Western Stock Show site, and, separately, a 0.08 percent sales tax increase to pay for college scholarships.

• Durango has $68 million on the ballot to fix up its sewer plant and make other wastewater system improvements.

• Parker leaders want to invest nearly $40 million for parks and recreation by raising the city sales tax by 0.5 percent.

• Ouray residents will decide on $8 million to renovate the city-owned hot springs pool to be paid back through a 1 percent sales tax increase.

• Twelve cities and towns are deciding marijuana taxes: Basalt, Commerce City, Georgetown, Hayden, Leadville, Log Lane Village, Lyons, Milliken, Parachute, Pueblo, South Fork and Sterling. And voters in four others are deciding whether to allow pot sales at all: Milliken, Rocky Ford, Sterling and South Fork.

One of the most talked-about local issues across the state, however, is access to broadband Internet, Mamet said.

Government agencies in 26 municipalities and 17 counties are asking voters for permission to provide or negotiate with private providers to speed up their Internet services, according to the Colorado Municipal League and Colorado Counties Inc.

Ten towns and cities already have approved — by wide margins — the push for faster Internet under a 10-year-old Colorado law that restricts how municipalities provide broadband.

“Today it’s viewed very much as a utility, a basic, fundamental service,” Mamet said of Internet service. “It’s also very much an economic-development issue in cities large and small.”

The uptick in interest this year follows a state Department of Local Affairs grant program set up last year that offers $20 million to help communities develop broadband.

Nearly 20 towns and cities are looking at funding construction projections with approval of voters, in lieu of the state legislator’s inability to find a revenue solution, Mamet said.

Many of the ballot questions are necessary because of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the 1992 constitutional amendment that requires voter approval for new taxes. The Municipal League tracks the votes, and nearly 69 percent of the time local voters have approved local spending — 279 of 407 requests.

Brighton, Colorado Springs, Denver, Manitou Springs, Monument, Mountain View and Nederland are asking voters for specific taxing or expenses to be “de-Bruced,” or exempted from TABOR revenue caps, in reference to the TABOR’s author, Douglas Bruce.

Denver’s Measure 2B would allow the city to keep nearly $5.3 million in revenue above the TABOR cap from a 3.5 percent special marijuana tax passed in 2013.

Other ballot requests this year include Hayden’s question on whether the city should continue to add fluoride to its drinking water, and in Fort Lupton voters will decide whether people should be allowed to keep bees outside their homes.

Ballots were mailed out last week, ahead of a Saturday statewide deadline, and must be returned by mail or in-person by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Joey Bunch: 303-954-1174, or @joeybunch

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