Colorado legislature passes metro district reform bill with some changes – The Denver Post

A bill that reforms laws impacting Colorado metropolitan districts cleared the state legislature on the final day of the session Tuesday, but not without legislators first removing a provision requiring the independent certification of developer expenses.

The state House of Representatives late Monday passed Senate Bill 21-262 by a vote of 62-2. Other changes by the House local government and transportation committee included the addition of a requirement that metro districts must publish in a local newspaper any notices of upcoming elections to their boards and requests for resident candidates.

The House sent the bill back to the Senate for reconsideration, and the Senate on Tuesday concurred with the changes. The bill now heads to Gov. Jared Polis.

Residents in several metro districts have complained that elections frequently are canceled without their knowledge or awareness that they had a right to self-nominate for a seat on the board.

Developers who controlled several district boards have often resigned rather than face a board dominated by residents.

A key change was removing an entire section that would have required districts to hire independent engineers to review and certify any developer expenses before they were to be paid.

Proponents said it offered a measure of transparency that ensured reimbursement requests were reviewed by someone unconnected to the development.

Opponents, however, pointed out that most metro district boards are composed of the very same developers seeking reimbursement, so hiring an independent engineer would be meaningless because of the built-in conflict of interest.

“Metro district financing is anything but affordable. It is draining billions of dollars of wealth away from our communities,” said attorney John Henderson with Coloradoans for Metro District Reform. “Higher profits for developers is not a public service. Higher profits guaranteed by taxes imposed by developers with no vote by the taxpayers is the exact opposite of public service. The abuse must stop.”

The group, made up largely of metro district residents across the state, has said the bill doesn’t do enough to address their concerns and has noted they had no input on what it would include.

“I hope you realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to needed metro district reform,” said Fayre Ruszczyk, a resident of Dancing Willows Metro District.

Added Henderson: “We genuinely hope that at some point we will get as much time as the industry does to provide facts about metro district abuse and ways to correct it.”

Another metro-district reform bill that was expected to be introduced in the General Assembly never gained enough traction to attract co-sponsors and is said to be put off until the next legislative session.  A group of businesses and investors that work on metro districts, known as the Metro District Education Coalition, that were instrumental in the Senate bill have pressed members of the House to stall any efforts at a competing bill.

“Honestly, we just made this one better,” House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, a co-sponsor of SB 21-262, said Monday.

The reforms are the result of Denver Post stories about the inner workings of metro districts.

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