Judge rules that Adams County stormwater utility is exempt from TABOR

Adams County photo via CIG
Adams County photo via CIG

From The Denver Post (Anthony Cotton):

A judge in Adams County ruled Monday in favor of the county in a lawsuit filed by residents who opposed the stormwater utility fee that was approved by the county commissioners in 2012.

The lawsuit was filed in August 2013 by the Stop Stormwater Utility Association, which argued that the fee was really a tax and therefore a violation of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the Colorado Constitution because the collection was not approved by voters.

“Throughout this process the county has maintained the belief that the stormwater utility is a fee, not a tax and is necessary to provide storm water related services and facilities,” Commissioner Chaz Tedesco said.

In his ruling, Judge Mark Warner said “The utility is a government-owned business that receives less than 10 percent of its funds from state and local authorities combined, and is therefore an “enterprise” that is exempted from TABOR. Further, defendant has not engaged in an unconstitutional “bait and switch” by imposing the fee and using it, in part, for administrative and personnel costs.

“Further, the Court concludes the stormwater utility fee is reasonably related to the overall cost of providing services related water drainage and water related activities in the service area. Thus, based upon the foregoing interpretation of Colorado law, the stormwater utility charge is a fee, not a tax and not subject to TABOR.”

More stormwater coverage here.

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