Who We Are
Manitou Springs Metropolitan District (Metro) is a Special District that was formed under Title 32 of the Colorado State Statutes. Metro is its own governmental entity. A great way to understand Metro is this: Metro is to Manitou Springs what Manitou Springs is to El Paso County. It is a governmental entity within the boundaries of another governmental entity.
Metro District Map
What We Do
A Special District is formed to take on very specific tasks, duties and responsibilities that are not covered by any other governmental entity at the time of formation of the district. They are often used as a funding mechanism for infrastructure development for a very specific area. At the time of formation, there was no other entity focused on parking for the downtown area of Manitou Springs -- so "Metro" was born. The initial primary focus was to create additional parking and reduced congestion. As a later phase of its mission, Metro also wanted to integrate good parking with an enhanced pedestrian experience and to examine alternative park and recreation opportunities for Manitou Springs. The City has come a long way since the District was formed!
Over time Metro acquired additional properties for added parking and took on the responsibility of managing them - it currently owns two surface parking lots. These lots are owned by the constituents of the District just as, for example, City Parks are owned by the citizens of the City. Because it is a small district, for much of its life, Metro has closely partnered with the City for many of its administrative and support duties. This was done through a formal agreement called an Intergovernmental Agreement or IGA. An IGA is a common tool used between governmental entities for things such as the provision of services or to assign authority. For example a very small mountain town may lack the resources for its own police force. It may negotiate an IGA for policing with its parent county's Sheriff Department. The county would bill the mountain town for these services so the county citizens were not footing the bill for the mountain town. The City bills Metro for the services it provides. As our example mountain town grows and prospers the need for an IGA may cease altogether or the terms may need to be reexamined and renegotiated; IGAs often evolve over time. The first IGA between the District and the City was negotiated and adopted in 1989; it was later amended in 2013. This amended agreement is still in place today. Metro is currently evaluating the IGA to determine if the parameters of it are still appropriate for the parties given upcoming projects.The IGA may only be amended through mutual agreement of the parties.
Why Metro Continues to Exist Today
One might ask now that the City of Manitou Springs DOES "do parking" why do we also need Metro? That is a great question! Let's go back to the comparison of Metro and City and City and El Paso County. Even though El Paso County and the City "do" some of the same things, they plow, they maintain roads, they have parks, etc. we would never dream of abdicating all City functions to the County! We just couldn't imagine that a County would be as focused on our needs as our City is. We might get lost in the fray! We would also now be responsible for paying for things that were far away from us, that we didn't care about, through broader taxation. The District has a map and boundary associated with it. All citizens that are within that area are the citizens of the District. The District has a legal and moral obligation to its citizens and their specific needs just like Manitou has to its citizens as does each encompassing entity up the chain.
The Metro Board is duly elected just like City Council is. Voters who receive election ballots who are within the District will see these Metro board positions on their official ballots; those who are not in the District will not. Metro citizens also have a voice in the Metro Mill Levy; each one of them pays an additional tax to, in part, support the functions, projects and duties of the Metro District. These mill levy ballot issues, if any, will only appear on ballots of those inside the District.
By-in-large the Metro District footprint mirrors the Downtown District. Its voters are largely business owners and retailers that, through their commercial property taxes and sales tax they collect, meaningfully support the City budget. Because the District has a small footprint, the founders realized that there were not enough tax payers within the boundaries to fully support the properties and projects that the district had undertaken and would undertake in the future by mill levy alone. The parking lots owned by the District are primarily supported by paid parking fees. Taxes are approved (or not approved) by the constituents of the District; fees are set by the Metro Board who is elected by the constituents of the District.
Even though the District is small the mill levy is meaningful toward supporting Metro Parking lots and projects. Were Metro to dissolve those ad valorem tax revenues would dissolve with it. With Metro in place ONLY citizens within the district pay the tax that goes toward the parking lots from which they benefit. Should, say the City, take over the Metro parking lots it too would need the supporting mill levy revenue. Because Colorado has the Tax Payer Bill of RightsTABOR, any new tax would go to a vote of the people. The City may or may not get the votes it needed. Furthermore, the mill levy would then have to be paid by EVERY property within the City limits instead of just the targeted properties within the District as it is today. Voters are hard-pressed to increase their taxes if they don't specifically benefit; that is sensible reasoning! Also the assets of any government belong to the people of that government; the assets of the District belong to the citizens of the District. The District Board doesn't have the right to give them away any more than the City has the right to give City parks to El Paso County.
Thankfully, Metro will continue to exist and looks forward to working toward an even more prosperous and vibrant community for both residents and visitors of the District as well as the greater Manitous Springs community. While Metro is a government and must adhere to standards and laws that apply to governments, because its purpose is limited and its tasks and projects are focused, it can be more nimble and proactive than an entity that has a lot more on its plate and that has broader demands like the City.
Metro looks forward to many more years of service to the people of the District, the betterment of the visitor and resident experience and a continuing productive relationship with the City of Manitou Springs! .The Manitou Springs Metro District will continue to serve the people of its District and will continue to focus on the specific responsibilities for which it was formed.
Metropolitan & Special Districts Explained
It is our hope that we have clarified Metro's role specifically and Special Districts in general. Special Districts though are challenging to understand sometimes. Please explore the links below for additional information.
Special District FAQ
Colorado State Statute: TITLE 32 / 2017