City balances 2005 budget

Filed under: Opinion |

The balancing process for the City’s 2005 General Fund Budget is complete. This year’s proceedings were made easier by improved sales tax revenues and tough decisions made in 2004 to curb spending. The City’s fiscal condition has improved due to growth in the national economy, modest improvements in the advanced technology sector and also the return of nearly 11,000 Fort Carson troops from Iraq last spring. The 2005 General Fund Budget totals $228.9 million compared to $208.8 million for 2004.

The City of Colorado Springs wants to accommodate its residents’ needs, but there are still limitations. The last thing we want to do is cut services to citizens. Over half of the revenue supporting the General Fund Balance comes directly from Sales and Use Tax dollars. Local and state TABOR mandates also affect the budget and, in turn, the services the City is equipped to provide to citizens.

In contrast to 2004, the 2005 budget proposes no cuts to services or programs to city residents.

The year 2004 was a difficult year for the City, financially. The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department was hit especially hard with budget cuts. Initially, it did not appear that any restoration of City programs or services would be possible in 2005. However, with a slightly improved revenue outlook in recent months, and the reallocation of some Colorado Lottery Funds, some services will be restored.

The 2005 budget restores some of the services cut in previous years.

The proposed 2005 General Fund Budget will allow for:

n the City greenhouses to resume growing flowers for citizens volunteers to plant in 105 median flowerbeds;

n the 19 closed restroom facilities in parks to be reopened;

n Starsmore Discovery Center and Helen Hunt Falls Visitors Centers to have extended hours;

n an urban forester to be hired to care for diseased trees;

n a vegetation control specialist to be hired to cut and control weeds on City right of ways;

n repairs to Prospect Lake to begin early in January 2005.

Repairing Prospect Lake and renovation of the City Auditorium are two very expensive projects looming over the Parks Department. However, there was not sufficient funding to complete both projects so Council decided to postpone renovation of the City Auditorium until a more comprehensive plan is developed for the renovation.

A total of $1.37 million from the 2005 Conservation Trust Fund Budget will be used to fund the repair of Prospect Lake. The Conservation Trust Fund is comprised of Colorado Lottery dollars designated to fund municipal park or recreation projects throughout the state. Council directed that the Prospect Lake project should be funded through an interfund loan from the unreserved/undesignated General Fund Balance to the Conservation Trust Fund. Additional funding for the $2 million project will come from a contribution from the county and from savings in the Parks utility budget in 2004. Staff hopes to have construction on Prospect Lake completed in time for the Balloon Classic in September 2005.

The General Fund Budget will not formally be adopted by City Council until December 14, 2004. In accordance with the City Charter the budget must be approved by the last formal meeting in December.

Lorne Kramer is the city manager for the City of Colorado Springs. You can contact him at 385-5455.