Local governments provide vital resources to the community. Studying the government is vital in developing communities that are healthy, safe and engaged. Explore this page to learn about the government in the Pikes Peak region. 

Report summary:


Local governments provide vital services to develop communities that are healthy, safe, and vibrant. The Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is comprised of El Paso and Teller counties. 

Key Indicators

The Colorado Springs Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is comprised of El Paso and Teller counties. In Colorado, counties are not independent governmental units but political subdivisions of state government that are authorized to carry out the will of the state. El Paso and Teller counties possess only such powers as are conferred by the state.

El Paso County is the most populous in the state. Colorado counties may have a three or five-member board of commissioners. El Paso County voters chose in 1976 to have a five-member board, with each commissioner representing a district of equal population; district boundaries are adjusted by the board every two years. The board meets weekly on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade in Colorado Springs.

Commissioner Districts - El Paso County

1 El Paso County

Teller County was created from portions of El Paso and Fremont counties in 1899, at the end of a decade when the gold boom saw the population of the Cripple Creek mining district grow from a few dozen people to more than 50,000. Cripple Creek is the county seat, while Woodland Park is its largest city. Teller County has three commissioners who are elected at large from the members of three geographic districts. They serve up to two four-year terms.2

More than half of the metropolitan area residents live in Colorado Springs. Since 2011 the city government has used a mayor-council system. The mayor serves as the chief executive for the city’s government and the city council is the legislative branch. The mayor is not a member of the city council but may participate in city council meetings. The Colorado Springs City Council is made up of nine officials who are elected for four-year terms. Citywide residents elect three council members at-large. Citizens in each of six equally-populated quadrants elect an additional council member to represent them.3

This report examines key measures for monitoring local government effectiveness, including voter participation, budget integrity, credit rating, debt load, and tax burden.

Click on an indicator to learn more about it! Be sure to use the interactive graphs for the full experience. 

Voter Registration & Participation

An engaged and vibrant community is characterized by a high rate of participation in the democratic process. Voting is a fundamental way to become involved with this process. Combined, El Paso and Teller counties have nearly half a million registered voters.

The proportion of Colorado Springs MSA adults who are registered to vote in 2020 was 82.4%, which reflected a drop from 2016, when it was 89.3%.4 Colorado Springs ranked 4th of 6 peer communities in the proportion of adults registered to vote.5

4 El Paso County Clerk & Recorder, Teller County Clerk & Recorder, U.S. Census Bureau

Between El Paso and Teller Counties, 84.0% of registered voters took part in the 2020 general election. This ranked 3rd among 6 peer communities.

11  Colorado Secretary of State, El Paso County Clerk & Recorder, Idaho Secretary of State, New Mexico Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State

Budgeting Ratio

As governments collect and spend money on behalf of the public, they must do so responsibly. They should not dramatically overspend, such that the public debt increases, nor should they dramatically underspend, such that public monies are withheld from being spent for the public good.

How well governments achieve this balance is described by the budgeting ratio, which is calculated by dividing the general fund expenditures by general fund revenues. The closer to 100%, the better the balance.

Budgeting ratios were calculated over several years for both Colorado Springs counties as well as three cities in the region, using data from their comprehensive annual financial reports.

12 El Paso County Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, Teller County Financial Statements

13 City Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports

Budgeting ratios were also calculated for 2020 for the largest county in each peer community. Due to COVID-19, many governments scaled back non-essential services, which lowered spending and reduced budgeting ratios to lower than 100%. El Paso and Teller counties’ ratios were closer to balanced (100%) than all but one peer community.

21 County Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports

El Paso County total general fund expenditures per capita were $492 in 2020 and Teller County’s were $736.22

Debt Per Capita

City and county governments, school districts, fire districts, utilities, and other public entities commonly take on long-term debt. This allows the construction cost of buildings and other infrastructure to be paid back over time by those who use or are served by the facilities. Due to jurisdictions overlapping, many cities and counties publish statements of “direct and overlapping debt” to report the share of public debt borne by residents.

In Colorado Springs MSA, three cities provide this calculation in their comprehensive annual financial report. Per capita local debt in each community is less than 35% of the most recent available national average of $6,058 (2019).

23 City of Colorado Springs Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau
24 City of Fountain Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau
25 City of Woodland Park Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau
26  City Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau

A weighted average of those cities, which comprise 69% of the metro population, is used in the following peer comparison chart as an estimate for Colorado Springs MSA. For peer communities, the largest available cities or counties are used. In 2020, Colorado Springs ranked 2nd of 6 communities for lowest local government debt.

32 2020 City and county Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, U.S. Census Bureau

Counties with a higher per-capita gross product can sustain a higher level of per-capita debt. As a percentage of per-capita gross product, Colorado Springs’ local government debt in 2020 was 3.9%, which also ranked 2nd of 6 peer communities.

Credit Rating

As with individuals and companies, the creditworthiness of local governments impacts the rate at which they can borrow, whether by commercial loans or bond issues. Three credit bureaus—Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global (formerly Standard & Poor’s), and Fitch Ratings— assign ratings to various bond issues and sometimes assign a long-term credit rating to the issuer itself. In 2011, Moody’s assigned the City of Colorado Springs a rating of Aa2. Since 2015 El Paso County has had a rating of Aa1. The following table explains the investment-grade Moody’s ratings tiers and how local governments compares to peers.

Credit Rating Data Table

39 Moody’s Investor Service

State & Local Tax Burden

Data on the effective rate of state and local taxes is primarily available at the state level. Tax Foundation’s calculations are favored because they account for “tax exporting,” which adjusts for the portion of taxes—20% nationally—that is paid by out-of-state residents.40 This includes sales tax paid by tourists, property tax on vacation homes, and severance tax on oil and mineral extraction.41

In 2022, Colorado residents are projected to pay $6,699 per capita in state and local taxes. As a percentage of economic output, the Colorado state-and-local tax burden is 9.7%, which is less than the U.S. average of 11.2% and ranks as the 19th lowest of 50 states.42

43  Tax Foundation

A published amount for Colorado Springs MSA is not available. The region’s net product in 2020 was 79.6% of the state average,44 but the effective property tax rate for El Paso County is also less than the statewide average.45

46 Tax Foundation

Compared to the nation as a whole, Colorado and each of the peer-community states have a lower-than-average tax burden. Albuquerque and Boise, as the only large metropolitan areas in their respective states, have local tax rates that are very close to the state average. The effective property tax rate of Austin and its suburbs ranges from 0.5% to 1.0% higher than the state average.47

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The Peak Progress (QLI) Report is a community effort to look at and evaluate different components of quality of life in the Pikes Peak Region. This project convenes volunteers, community members, and leaders from across the region (Vision Councils) to gather and evaluate data and create goals (referred to as “priority areas”) in various categories.

This report originated in 2007 after Howard Brooks and Jerry Smith recognized the need for benchmarking information and gathered the necessary community support and resources to publish the first edition. The 2019/2020 report seeks to move the report forward by not only focusing on indicators, but also looking for ways to take these findings and create actionable change and improve the quality of life in the Pikes Peak Region. To do this, we followed the original process of creating benchmarks by comparing the Pikes Peak Region to other regions in order to see how we are doing compared to other places in the United States, as well as looking at data over time.

This report is for anyone from a general citizen to an elected representative. Based on the foundation of community groups, networks, and resources that were assembled to develop it, this highly beneficial tool provides reliable and easy to understand data with the potential and proposed steps for actionable change.