The Pueblo West View

Letter: Shifty, spendthrift politicians

A recent Pueblo West View letter generously concludes that: “Sly must be the politician that promotes spending tax money to generate much desired additional tax revenues.”

The subject, of course, is the golf course – Desert Hawk Golf Course.

The writer in essence reasons that the taxpayer money being spent by Pueblo County and Pueblo West Metro District supporting Desert Hawk Golf Course is justified because golf course residential properties command higher market values and consequently yield higher property tax assessments that provide local governments with higher property tax revenues.

Yes, golf course property owners pay higher prices for their properties and consequently higher property taxes to enjoy a golf-course location.

And they can reasonably expect commensurate returns when they sell.

Golf course property owners apparently consider this a good investment; but is it a good investment for the whole community?

Let’s look at what Desert Hawk Golf Course has cost the community as a whole.

Pueblo County purchased, financed and set up the Desert Hawk Golf Course Enterprise by issuing $7,235,000 in Certificates of Participation – translation: debt.

As of December 2012, after a decade operating as a county owned enterprise – and producing operating losses averaging over $500,000 annually, including a $520,735 loss in 2012 – Desert Hawk still owes $4,624,736 on that original debt.

During 2012, Desert Hawk wrote off $3,909,027 in loans that over the past decade Pueblo County had extended Desert Hawk to make its debt service payments and defray its excessive operating expenses – labeling it a “transfer” to disguise the bad debt writeoff.

Much of that taxpayer money had been collected from Pueblo West taxpayers.

As of December 2012, Desert Hawk still owes Pueblo West Metro $1,279,813 in unpaid water bills and $2,950,055 in debt service and operating expense loans.

The debt service loans – appropriated and paid out of the district’s general fund property tax revenues, $317,782 in 2012 – have been shifted to the water enterprise fund; yes, a “transfer,” reflected there as “Notes Receivable,” thus disguising their true property-tax origin – undoubtedly because CRS 24-75-601 would prohibit such loans.

Add it all up and you’re looking at a $13-plus million golf course investment that on today’s market might possibly bring $2.5-to-$3 million.

The crowning feature of this financial marvel is that Pueblo West metro district does not even own an interest in Desert Hawk Golf Course; it’s merely a creditor, dependent on all Desert Hawk’s loans first being repaid before any title may be transfer; and Pueblo County has demonstrated its lack of confidence in that event by writing its loans off as uncollectible.

This may look like a good deal for golf course property owners; but how does it look to other Pueblo West property owners?

Look no further if you’ve wondered why the metro district lacks money to tend your flooded streets and rutted roads.

And imagine this:

These shifty, spendthrift politicians expect you, at some point, to supply them with more money, by voting for a sales tax.

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