Muni 101: Highlights over a 10-year history

Other Muni 101 stories:
Basics and background
Who’s arguing what?
Xcel, Boulder settlement: What’s in it?

2010: Voters OK replacing the 3% Xcel franchise fee (roughly $4 million/year, which goes into Boulder’s general fund) with a Utility Occupation Tax and to fund research into alternatives through 2015. At the end of 2010, Boulder’s franchise agreement with Xcel expires.

2011: Voters give Boulder the authority to form a utility and condemn Xcel’s assets, if certain conditions were met: That the city can acquire the system and match Xcel’s rates at the time of acquisition while maintaining reliable service, and that rates will cover costs + debt + 25%

Voters also increase UOT funding to pay for exploration of municipalization.

2012: Council OKs using general fund money for the muni

2013: Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission (the state regulatory body for utilities, hereafter referred to as PUC rules that it will decide what Boulder can and can’t acquire from Xcel. The PUC also finds that Boulder will have to pay to replace/rebuild facilities/infrastructure Xcel needs to provide service to area customers not served by Boulder’s utility.

Voters put a cap on the amount of debt that can be issued to acquire Xcel’s system: $214 million. (That will be adjusted with inflation at the time of acquisition.)

2014: Per a 6-3 vote of council, Boulder forms a light and power utility (on paper, at least), sparking a lawsuit from Xcel that won’t be resolved until 2019. The city files for condemnation of Xcel’s assets in Boulder District Court

2015: Boulder District Court rules that Boulder will have to go through the PUC process before filing for condemnation (January) PUC rules that Boulder can’t condemn infrastructure serving customers outside city limits and that Xcel doesn’t have to share that infrastructure with Boulder. PUC dismisses part of Boulder’s application but allows for discovery process so Boulder can learn more about Xcel’s system to determine what it needs to acquire (November)

Voters extend UOT first passed in 2010 through 2022

2016: Muni spending passes $10 million (March) Boulder resubmits application with PUC (September) and PUC rules it complete (November)

2017: Council declines 6-3 to put a settlement with Xcel — which would end the muni effort and re-establish a franchise agreement — on the ballot (April) Council unanimously decides that voters will get final say before Boulder buys Xcel’s system, once a full and final purchase price has been determined

PUC rules that Boulder, Xcel have to meet certain conditions before approval is granted to proceed with condemnation (September) Voters extend UOT expansion passed in 2011 through 2022 (November)

2018: Boulder, Xcel file final list of agreements with the PUC (October), though it is later contested and won’t be approved for another year

2019: Muni spending passes $20 million (March) City offers $68.5 million to Xcel for its system (April) City makes $82 million offer and files for condemnation (June) PUC approves separation of assets outside of substations, closing out state process (October) Boulder makes $94 million offer to Xcel (November)

2020: Councilman Bob Yates, Mayor Sam Weaver inform public that Xcel and city are in negotiations for a muni off-ramp; council agrees to continue settlement talks (May) 6-2 vote of council (Aug. 20) and 7-2 final vote (Sept. 1) puts an Xcel franchise and settlement agreement on the ballot

Voting history

2010: Issue 2B replaced the 3% yearly franchise fee (approximately $4 million per year) customers pay to Xcel with the Utility Occupation Tax, which would fund research into alternatives for five years. (Passed 68.4% to 36.6%. Turnout: 35,580)

2011: Issue 2B raised the UOT by $1.9 million per year, through 2017 (Passed 50.4% to 49.6%. Turnout: 26,494)

Issue 2C gave council council the authority to form a light and power utility and condemn Xcel’s assets (Passed 51.9% to 48.1%. Turnout: 26,541)

2013: Issue 2E limited the amount of debt that could be issued to buy Xcel’s system to $214M. (Passed 66.5% to 33.5%. Turnout: 29,319)

2015: Issue 2O extended the original UOT. (Passed 71.4% to 28.6%. Turnout: 26,824)

2017: Issue 2L extended the 2011 UOT increase. (Passed 51.7% to 48.3%. Turnout: 30,659)

— Shay Castle,, @shayshinecastle

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