On December 18, 2014, I received a letter from Rocky Scott, the Director of Corporate Relations with Woodward, Inc. The letter was remarkable for its bullying and intimidating tone. It also repeated several false statements, in an apparent attempt to extract more taxpayer money from the citizens. In response, here are the facts:
Homestead Natural Area was not a gift from Woodward. It was part of a $23.5 million taxpayer-financed package, which was adopted by Council on March 26, 2013. The agreement says the property was “conveyed”, not donated, which just means Woodward transferred ownership to the City as part of the deal.
The City of Fort Collins is not required to ask the voters for millions of additional dollars to fund the Lincoln Avenue project next to Woodward. It has always been up to Council whether or not to refer this question to the voters. And, if Council should ask, you are free to vote “no” on the question.
It is important to know that the Lincoln project was never a high priority until the push for the redevelopment of this private property started. And, in fact, the property is now being developed. Further tax money for this project will ensure that far more important projects for the taxpayers will be significantly delayed or never started.
Part of the deal was tax increment financing, or TIF. TIF is the diversion of additional property tax that comes as a result of development. The idea that TIF is somehow “free” or an entitlement is simply false. In our rapidly growing community, it is very unlikely that the property would have remained empty long. And an unsubsidized development would have allowed state and local taxes to pay for our schools, libraries, Foothills Gateway, and other critical state and local services. Instead, these taxes have been diverted to subsidize Woodward.
Additionally, TIF was not the whole deal. For example, every city taxpayer is helping to pay for the increased cost of providing utility service to Woodward via a subsidy of Woodward’s utility capital expansion fees.
I am not the only person who opposed the size of the March 2013 tax package. In fact, my opponent in the 2013 election also spoke out with concerns about its cost and risk to the taxpayers. Together, we received 100% of the votes cast in District 5, whose interests I now represent. We were not alone with concerns that night, and since then I have heard from many others who were opposed to the multimillion dollar deal.
Finally, I support honest business and productive employment. However, I am opposed to unnecessary handouts to wealthy multi-billion-dollar private companies. We have the existing $23.5 million deal. We don’t need to give millions of additional taxpayer dollars to this project, leaving individual citizens with the tax bill.
Woodward is entitled to its own opinion, but Woodward is not entitled to its own facts. And it is not entitled to more than the letter of its agreement with the City. Most Fort Collins residents and taxpayers are tired of multinational corporate entitlements. It is my job to represent all of the citizens, not just one multi-billion-dollar business. I will do the job I was elected to do. I will not be intimidated or bullied into silence.