Pueblo West operates leaner today than any other time in the Metropolitan District’s 47 year history. With a population over tenfold larger than in 1969 and several other factors, Pueblo West is a lean and innovative government bent on continuing to provide the highest quality of services to our residents. To better understand the differences between then and now, some distinctions and historical changes must be noted.
Pueblo West is a metropolitan district, not a city. This form of government is a type of special district and defined by Title 32 of the Colorado Revised Statutes as a government district that provides a specific service, and a metropolitan district is a special district that provides two or more services.
Established in 1969, Pueblo West’s service plan states that the Metro District must provide services such as fire protection, parks and recreation, fresh and waste water utilities, and streets and roads maintenance, but with a fraction of the operating budget of a city. With the exception of the utilities department which falls under an enterprise, Pueblo West-provided services are funded almost exclusively with a mill levied property tax. As a result, the Metro District has a history of innovatively finding additional funding for projects through grants and other available monies that not only offset the public costs of such projects but provide the highest quality of service to residents. Pueblo West Metropolitan District runs an exceptionally lean government with a $7 million general fund budget providing services to approximately 31,000 residents. When contrasted with an approximate $11 million budget and population of 3,100 in 1978, Pueblo West is doing more today with less.
While the service plan has remained the same since 1969, the scope of these services has changed over the years. Originally a paid department, in 1976 the paid fire department was disbanded and an all-volunteer Pueblo West Fire Department was created to meet the needs of a small but growing community. This department was lean and required little funding to operate. On June 6, 1978, an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Pueblo West and Pueblo County was established for the maintenance of public roadways. This IGA provided funding from the county in the form of highway use tax funds (HUTF) to off-set road maintenance costs within the District. Since providing for streets and roads maintenance is part of the District’s service plan, the IGA was an important part of fulfilling a fundamental service within the community. In 1978, Pueblo West was comprised of approximately 39 square miles, as contrasted to today’s land area of 49.7 square miles, thus, the land area of the District has grown by nearly 20%.
In addition to the cost savings of an all-volunteer fire department, a population that is one tenth of today’s population, a district that was 10 square miles smaller in size, and a newly formed agreement that provided county funding to offset road maintenance costs, the nature of the mill levy draws a stark contrast between Pueblo West’s early history and today. Prior to the passage of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), Pueblo West had two mill levies: one for the general fund and the other for debt service. Combined, these provided the total assessed mill levy for Pueblo West. Today, the mill is one and not broken into two different mills. In 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, the total assessed annual mills from Pueblo West were 28, 26, 28.1, and 27 respectively, as compared to today’s 20.193. Also, prior to 1980, the assessment rate for noncommercial property in Colorado was 30%, as compared to today’s 7.96%.
As noted in last week’s article, property tax is calculated by multiplying the property’s assessed value by the assessment rate, then taking this number and multiplying it by the decimal version of the mill rate. This means, if your property’s assessed value is $1,000, then in 1978, you would pay $60.58, in contrast to in 2016, your tax due would be $16.07. The buying power of the 28.1 mill rate in 1978 with the assessment rate of 30% is equivalent to a 48.74 mill rate today. This demonstrates an equivalent of a 59% decrease in Pueblo West Metro District’s mill levy since 1978. Going a step further and accounting for inflation, a dollar in 1978 had the same buying power of $3.81 in 2016. Therefore, the $11 million budget from 1978 had the buying power of $41.91 million, contrasted with today’s $7 million budget.
For much of Pueblo West’s early history, the Metro District thrived on a robust tax base that funded the modest services of the government. Today, Pueblo West is charged with providing the same services—and in many cases, more robust services to a tenfold larger population, with a significantly smaller mill rate. If efficient use of taxpayer dollars is a mark of good government, then Pueblo West is a champion of respecting the taxpayer by providing the best services with the least resources.
For more information contact:
Community Engagement Manager, Pueblo West Metropolitan District
109 E. Industrial Blvd
PO Box 7005
Pueblo West, CO 81007