Home Rule City – What it would mean for CPN?
by Lane Roberts
Castle Pines North (CPN) joined the list of 270 incorporated municipalities in the State of Colorado in November, 2007. Of those municipalities, 89 are home rule cities or towns.
Earlier this year, the CPN City Council began discussions on the home rule process and potential models that could be modified to fit the new city. CPN is currently a statutory city.
“The decision to wait on home rule was taken for two principle reasons,” said City Treasurer Doug Gilbert. “First, Castle Pines North was in a race with Castle Pines Village to file incorporation papers and ensure that CPN had a claim on the revenues of the commercial district.”
Gilbert said the extra requirements needed to become a home rule city would have required additional time which “posed a risk to preserving the option to vote on incorporation including the tax base of the commercial district.” Gilbert previously served on the Citizens for the Preservation of Castle Pines North Committee which helped lead the economic feasibility study during the incorporation process. “Bundling home rule with incorporation would have created a very complex set of voter decisions extending over months,” he said.
What is a home rule city?
Home rule municipalities, which can be cities or towns, are self-governing under Article 20 of the constitution of the State of Colorado and follow a home rule charter. Article 20 grants both general and specific powers to home rule municipalities, providing them greater flexibility when seeking solutions to local problems.
According to Corey Hoffmann, a municipal attorney for Hayes, Phillips, Hoffmann & Carberry, P.C., the primary advantage of a home rule city is the ability to “legislate on matters of local concern.” Under home rule, local ordinances govern over state law.
Hoffmann says in order to become a home rule city, two separate elections must be held. First, voters must cast a ballot to determine if they want to establish a “charter commission” for a home rule status. Then, voters elect members to serve on the charter commission. The group is then charged with the task of establishing a charter, or constitution, for the city within 120 days.
“Once the charter is complete, it is presented to the council for a vote to determine whether or not to place it on a second ballot,” Hoffmann said.
Hoffman currently represents seven Colorado municipalities including: Northglenn, Elizabeth, Kiowa, Hudson, Gilcrest, Foxfield, and Black Hawk. Three of those, Northglenn, Kiowa and Black Hawk, are home rule municipalities. “Kiowa recently went to home rule status because they wanted the flexibility to deal with local issues as they determined appropriate,” he said.
What about taxes?
According to Hoffmann, even as a home rule city taxes cannot be imposed on food or property without a vote of the citizens. TABOR laws still apply to home rule municipalities.
Under the Colorado Constitution, taxes cannot be raised without a vote of the people. TABOR is a set of constitutional provisions Colorado voters adopted in 1992 to limit revenue growth for state and local governments in Colorado. It requires that any tax increase in any state or local government (including counties, cities, towns, school districts and special districts) must be approved by the voters of the affected government.
“There is certainly more flexibility of the types of taxes you can present to voters as a home rule city, but Colorado law is very clear and you still need voter approval,” he said.
General arguments against home rule include: costs involved with the charter process, the possibility of adopting a restrictive charter, and the potential for a home rule municipality to exercise more governmental powers than are available to statutory municipalities which some citizens may view as a disadvantage.
Hoffmann says he is a “huge advocate” of home rule. “I think you have the most accountability at the local level of government.”
Gilbert also thinks home rule is a good option for CPN. “Home rule will offer the city opportunities to streamline and simplify governmental structures that are currently dictated to us by statute.”
As of press time, no decision had been made by the city council regarding the placement of a home rule charter question on a ballot for 2009. Send your thoughts and comments about home rule status to editor.