Utility Rates High, Sponsorship Money Flies

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
Sponsorship Placeholder  $17,628

    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 stephannie.fortune@coloradosprings.gov

    Randy Helms   Randy.Helms@coloradosprings.gov

    Nancy Henjum   Nancy.Henjum@coloradosprings.gov

    Bill Murray  Bill.murray@coloradosprings.gov

    Mike O’Malley   Mike.OMalley@coloradosprings.gov

    Tom Strand   Tom.strand@coloradosprings.gov

    Wayne Williams Wayne.williams@coloradosprings.gov

    One thought on “Utility Rates High, Sponsorship Money Flies

    1. Here is a copy of the email I just sent CSU
      March 24, 2023

      In a recent article it was brought to my attention that almost $100,000 was spent on sponsorships in our city. If CSU was a private entity, I could understand the expenses. CSU is NOT a private entity. It is a taxpayer-funded monopoly. These sponsorships could and should be funded by the community at large and not at taxpayers expense. Colorado Springs Switchbacks, $27 thousand dollars? Why? Colorado Springs Moms Collective, $11,000? What are they and how do they support the community? Labor Day Liftoff? These are just a few. You are a taxpayer-funded monopoly! You don’t need advertisement. The taxpayers have no other choice! We have roads with huge potholes. Energy costs are rising. Water is an issue. I can see community education or assistance for those in need.
      There are at least 4 contractors installing fiber optic in the city. One just went through my yard tearing up my landscaping and the cable isn’t within the marked right of way. Why is CSU also installing fiber when a private contractor does it cheaper and quicker without the personnel costs, maintenance costs and overhead of maintaining the system?
      The CSU board has responsibility to judiciously spend taxpayer dollars but the optics is that you spend money frivolously. I think we new blood. People that take the needs and welfare of the whole community and not a select few or contractor buddies with big bank accounts.
      I like living in Colorado Springs but you are pricing me out with unjustified expenses.
      I am a senior on a fixed income so I demand a judicious use of my taxes.

      My feelings are that if CSU has money to spend on frivolous expenses then our rates need to be adjusted.

      Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

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