Over the past several months, we’ve been digging into some wasteful spending at Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). At a time when many are struggling to pay high utility bills, CSU is wasting ratepayer money on sponsorships and needless advertising. That’s just plain wrong. They are a monopoly, after all.
How much of your ratepayer money did CSU spend on sponsorships in 2022? We filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request with CSU to find out.
What did we find?
CSU budgeted for $96,517 for sponsorships in 2022.
Where did your sponsorship funds go?
|Colorado College Tiger Hockey||$5,556|
|Skate in the Park||$5,556|
|Colorado Springs Switchbacks||$27,778|
|Colorado Springs Moms Collective||$11,111|
|Air Force Falcons Football||$8,889|
|Parade of Homes||$5,556|
|Labor Day Lift-Off||$14,444|
CSU is a monopoly, and getting their name out in the public sphere to create brand awareness isn’t necessary. CSU should not be in the sponsorship business. If CSU has excess funds for sponsorships and pointless advertising, they are charging us too much for water, electricity, and natural gas. They aren’t being good stewards of ratepayer money.
I followed up with the CSU CORA team, asking for an explanation about the sponsorship placeholder category. Were those funds given out, too? The CSU CORA team responded:
No other sponsorships occurred in 2022. Those funds were reallocated to the paid media plan.
In other words, those excess funds were still spent —on needless advertising.
Most of the groups (listed above) that received money need little explanation. One was unfamiliar, though: the Colorado Springs Moms Collective. On 1/24/23, we asked for additional information by email, from CSU Spokesman Steve Berry and CSU Board President Wayne Williams:
I’ve recently asked for information about sponsorships and advertising for Colorado Springs Utilities. I see that over $11,000 was given in 2022 to a group called Colorado Springs Moms Collective. I’ve not heard of them until now and I’ve been a Colorado Springs Mom for 21 years. How long has CSU been sponsoring their events? How and why was this specific group selected for sponsorship? What did the sponsorship involve and what was gained for ratepayers? Is there an application process to receive sponsorships from CSU? How do you decide who gets ratepayer dollars?
After reaching out twice, we received a response from Mr. Berry on 2/1/23. Here is the email excerpt that mentions the Colorado Springs Moms Collective.
As far as your questions about COSMC, we’d recommend you more appropriately direct your questions to that group.
Thank you for your interest.
Steve Berry | Senior Public Affairs Specialist
Later that same day, I received a reply from Mr. Williams.
I understand that a response has now been sent. Thanks for circling back.
These answers are clearly inadequate.
I asked direct questions to the CSU Senior Public Affairs Specialist about the Colorado Springs Moms Collective receiving over $11,000 in ratepayer money. Mr. Berry told me to check with the group about the sponsorship it received!
The Colorado Springs Moms Collective is a private group. They aren’t accountable for CSU’s spending. They owe ratepayers no explanation. They simply figured out how to apply for a sponsorship.
CSU, on the other hand, does owe ratepayers an explanation for the expenditure. Someone at CSU presumably saw a grant application, and approved it. CSU owes the ratepayers an answer.
CSU needs to stop granting all sponsorships. Sponsorships do not benefit ratepayers. Reach out to the City Council members (a list of their email addresses appears at the bottom of this article) who serve as the CSU Board. It’s time to tighten the belts at CSU, just like the rest of us have had to do with our personal finances. Enough is enough.
And if you haven’t read our previous article about CSU’s significant ad budget, it’s worth a read here.
If you like our original articles and wish to contribute toward educating El Paso County taxpayers, you may send your donations here. Without you, we can’t continue our mission. Thanks for your support!
Yolanda Avila Yolanda.Avila@coloradosprings.gov
Dave Donelson Dave.Donelson@coloradosprings.gov
Stephannie Fortune firstname.lastname@example.org
Randy Helms Randy.Helms@coloradosprings.gov
Nancy Henjum Nancy.Henjum@coloradosprings.gov
Bill Murray Bill.email@example.com
Mike O’Malley Mike.OMalley@coloradosprings.gov
Tom Strand Tom.firstname.lastname@example.org
Wayne Williams Wayne.email@example.com