LovelandPolitics
Loveland's Independent News Source
True Costs of Faking Blight
Loveland, April 2, 2018

Betty, a 30 year resident of Loveland, slipped on the ice earlier this year in front of her
home.  Worried she had broken something as she lay immobilized on the ground, her
husband quickly called 911 whose operator dispatched
Thompson Valley EMS
(Emergency Medical Services) ambulance which took her across town to the nearest
hospital.

The short trip across town was painful but to add insult to injury, Betty discovered she
was being charged nearly $1,000 for the short ride in the ambulance.  This puzzled Betty
and her husband who, like most Loveland property owners, pay additional property
taxes each year by way of a special Mill Levy to the Thompson Valley EMS for the
privilege of residing inside the area of Thompson Valley Health Services District
(TVHSD).  

Established in 1983, the service district was intended to replace the high costs of private
ambulance services.  Instead, its service fees now rival the cost of private ambulance
service despite the fact Betty and her husband have been paying the ambulance tax for
the past 30 years.

Unfortunately for Betty,  the City of Loveland signed the Master Financing Agreement
(MFA) with McWhinney in 2004 while declaring productive farmland as "blight."  The
fake blight designation along with the MFA enabled McWhinney to divert up to 98% of
all property taxes collected on properties in the Centerra Urban Renewal area for 25
years.  As new companies, retailers and residents continue moving to Centerra's fake
blight Urban Renewal area, the service obligation of Thompson Valley EMS grows but
not its only source of tax revenue; property taxes.

Betty's $1,000 ambulance ride is a direct result of the decision by Loveland's City
Council to give away the tax base on approximately 3,000 acres annexed into city limits
1/3 of which was the Hahn farm inherited by the McWhinney family.  Unable to fund its
own services, Centerra businesses, shoppers and residents expect the same level of
service and quality of life as any other area of Loveland but their taxes are being
diverted away from the local governmental organizations charged with providing those
very services.

Like most residents of Loveland, Betty has had to lower expectations of government
services while increasing her contribution during the past decade as a growing Centerra
continues to put the squeeze on city coffers.  Twice in the past decade the City of
Loveland identified an "unsustainable" deficit in the city's general fund around $3.5
million annually.  The remedy both times was to raise fees on Loveland residents while
cutting back many services residents once took for granted.  This is partly due to
Centerra being exempted from the City of Loveland sales tax of 3%.  Instead, shoppers
actually pay more in Centerra due to special "fees" but Loveland only collects 1.75% of
the city's 3% sales tax.  The balance of "fees" goes toward the Centerra Metro District
tax and paying for McWhinney's city council lobbyist David Crowder.

Betty's husband, for example, was hit hard with an $18 fee to drop a very small amount
of garbage off at the Larimer County Landfill earlier this year (which is jointly run by
Loveland and Larimer County).  The flat fee imposed on privately owned pick-up trucks
replaces a cubic yard fee that allowed the same amount of garbage to be dumped for
only $5 last year.  In addition to the near $1,000 ambulance ride and 200% increase in
landfill fees the couple has seen increases in every  City of Loveland service from water,
sewer, refuse collection and now electrical rates above inflation during the past 5 years.


Faking Blight Vs. Real Blight

Urban renewal laws were developed as a tool for local governments to end the
downward spiral blight causes in a community in a surgical manner.  An abandoned
building, for example, can become a haven for illegal activities thus taxing emergency
services while generally bringing down adjacent property values which decreases
property taxes necessary to fund the local services being taxed by the growing blight.

Urban Renewal Authorities enable special financing known as TIF (Tax Increment
Financing) which allows property owners to finance improvements to blighted areas via
public debt borrowed by a metro district they can form.  As the improvements financed
by public debt increases property value thus taxes collected, the additional taxes can be
used to repay the loan.

A TIF refers to the methodology of applying the difference in taxes collected after
renovating the building which averages between 20 and 30% of the total property's
value.  Loveland's City Council was persuaded to make false declarations of blight on
productive agricultural land the McWhinney's inherited and purchased in 2004.  
Because the base value of undeveloped land is so much lower than developed land, the
amount available for TIF becomes larger while actual taxes paid into governing entities
drops below 4%.  Thus over 90% of the property taxes collected are diverted towards
repaying the public debt incurred making improvements to properties within the Urban
Renewal area.

In 2010 the Colorado State Legislature intervened largely due to elected officials in
Loveland abusing their authority to declare blight eligible for TIF schemes.  HB 1107
was passed to outlaw the designation of "blight" on McWhinney controlled agricultural
land.  For example, the Loveland City Council abused its discretion by pretending
hundreds of acres of the former Hahn Farm, inherited by the McWhinney's was "a
menace to the community."

When asked about the bill in 2010 and whether it will have an impact on Loveland by
one member of Loveland's City Council, Larimer County Assessor Steve Miller replied,
"Well, my friend, since Loveland was the inspiration for and target of the bill, I
imagine it will."

In the meantime, McWhinney continues to increase the public's debt garnered through
metro district loans of $188,000,000, to benefit their own projects.  With each new
additional resident, industrial or office building the City of Loveland needs to raise
additional revenue to expand its services to property owners whose taxes are being
diverted back to McWhinney's metro district.

The 2004 Loveland City Council which approved the MFA with McWhinney placed strict
limits on non-retail development allowed within the largely tax exempt Urban Renewal
Authority.  Later councils abandoned such limits along with any obligation for
McWhinney to contribute funds towards the widening of Highway 34 over I-25 or other
bait used by McWhinney to coax the city into the agreement.

The 2004 MFA was essentially a plan to annex property into the City of Loveland where
retails sales locations could raise additional sales tax revenue for the city while funding
regional transportation projects.  As the balance continues away from businesses that
pay even the reduced retail sales tax to the city (like class A office space) local
governments will continue to be pinched and looking for ways to continue raising fees
while eliminating non-essential services.  Expanding a city while giving away its essential
tax base has very negative long-term consequences to the financial stability of the city.
               Lost on Centerra

Loveland Councilman Steve Olson
revealed during
a January 2018 council
meeting that he believed the City of
Loveland is collecting the full city sales tax
of 3% in Centerra instead of the 1.75% the
city actually collects.  In fact, so sure of
himself the councilman interrupted
Loveland Mayor Jacki Marsh in an
embarrassing attempt to correct her.

Even more appalling, Councilman Steve
Olson shouted "what is the relevance"
when Mayor Marsh asked Troy McWhinney
about the $188 million of public debt
Centerra has already accumulated.

Claiming that was "none of our business"
Olson revealed his ignorance to the fact
McWhinney is not responsible for the
public's debt they accumulate on behalf of
the "public" entity of Centerra for which he
has oversight responsibilities.

Recruited by his friend Don Overcash to
run for city council, Steve Olson has voted
100% of the time with Overcash who he
regularly tries to follow in the sequence of
making comments and voting.

According to state law, Olson is one of the
nine member Loveland City Council
responsible for providing oversight of the
Centerra Metro Districts.
Loveland City Councilman Steve Olson