Small, Glenn already eyeing tough budget decisions

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Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilman Darryl Glenn are often on the opposite side of issues that come before City Council, but they’ve found some common ground.

In an e-mail this morning detailing his suggested budget cuts in the wake of Tuesday’s election, Glenn called for reducing the $500,000 budget for next November’s election to zero.

Small concurred.

“There’s no need to retain that in the budget,” he said, “I don’t foresee that we’ll want to place any items on the coordinated election a year from now.  If something changes, we can make that decision, but I’ve called for eliminating it.”

Small called the election “a perfect storm.”

“The voters are reacting to the economic environment,” he said. “During 2005, when we had our town meeting (to receive public input about the proposed budget), we got through the public comments in less than 15 minutes. This year, it took more than three hours.”

In a wide-ranging interview this morning, Small outlined a series of steps that, he believes, City Council needs to take.

Stormwater enterprise

Small said that the Douglas Bruce-initiated Issue 300, which the voters approved by a 55-45 percent margin, could be interpreted in such a way that its passage would not materially affect the enterprise.

“But that’s not what the voters intended,” he said. “They voiced dissatisfaction, and their intentions have to be honored.” 

Small said he favors winding the enterprise down, and completing already-funded projects, unlike Glenn, who called for its immediate termination. 

“At some point in the future we might bring it back and ask the voters if they want to reinstate it,” Small said.

Furloughs and pay cuts

“Furloughs really don’t have much impact,” Small said. “We can’t furlough public safety employees, so there are only about 400 employees who could be part of a furlough program.  Similarly, pay cuts don’t have the impact the people think because so much of our employee costs are tied up in benefits, and those costs grow over time. Pay cuts aren’t an efficient way to get to where we need to be.”

Four-day work week

“I believe that’s something we should consider,” Small said, “There are savings connected with closing non-public safety facilities.  The county has saved more than $250,000 in utilities costs by going to a four-day work week, and that’s significant by itself.”

Employee benefit packages

Small acknowledged that the cost of payments made to Public Employees Retirement Association, the city’s defined benefit pension plan, is a major component of the city’s budget.  He called for changes.

“Employees and retirees who are currently covered by PERA will continue to receive PERA,” he said, noting that such coverage constitutes a contractual commitment by the city which, by state law, cannot be altered. “But we can freeze our plan and create a new plan for all subsequent employees.  It would be a defined contribution plan, not defined benefit.  That wouldn’t have any impact on our present situation, but it could make a big difference a few years down the road.  It’s something we need to do.”

5 Responses to Small, Glenn already eyeing tough budget decisions

  1. I would like to know how much of the employees health insurance benefit the city is paying? Does anyone know that percentage?

    Lynn Liggett
    November 4, 2009 at 1:44 pm

  2. I think the thing that bothers many of us is no one is talking about reviewing policies and procedures to see if our city can become more efficient to save money. Our City Council has always gone right to cutting services. It feels like we were being blackmailed to pass the measures before and are now being punished since we didn’t.

    Don Rabidoux
    November 4, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  3. I was born and raised in Colorado Springs . . . after leaving for college in California upon graduation from Palmer HIgh School, I proceeded to live all across the country–Chicago, Brooklyn, NY, New Jersey, back to the Chicago area, and finally, I returned to Colorado Springs to live until the present in 1996. I have always had an extreme sense of pride in the City of Colorado Springs. Now for the first time in my life–after the defeat of 2c and the passage of 300, I am extremely ashamed of my home town.

    I am so disappointed that the anti-tax, anti-government majority of this town can be so set in their ideology that they can ignore the “public good” of our community. The majority used this election–major cuts in Parks and Recreation, snow removal, Firefighters, Policemen, and untold numbers of other puclic services, not to mention the very closure of the Pioneers Museum–to express: 1. their own selfish private interests; 2. their rage over whatever failures they observe in how the City Council has manged or manges the city; 3. their anger of what they may dislike is happening at the national and state level of American political life . . . . and in the process, they have cut off their nose to spite their face. It is beyond my imagination how they can be so blind.

    I believe in majority rule, but that does not mean the majority is always right, and one thing is certain, the majority will have to live with the unfortunate consequences of this decision for a long time–unfortunately the minority will have to live with it too. In my opinion it greatly diminishes Colorado Springs making it a far less desirable place to live–and we will live to regret this decision. But beyond that, it makes me deeply ashamed of the town I have loved all my life . . . I am greatly saddened this day.

    James A Speer
    November 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

  4. Well said James. Though not a native, I am proud of Colorado Springs and have put a lot of work into making the Springs a better place. Then this foolishness happens. It makes me want to stop working on helping better the city. After the Springs turns into a city like New York was portrayed in the Kurt Russell (Snake Pliskin) movie escape from New York, maybe then the citizens will wake-up. It might just be too late.

    Lon
    November 4, 2009 at 5:10 pm

  5. I am so disappointed with the responses from our city government. Just another example of elected arrogance. When our budget is tight at home or work we look for way to save and conserve so we can still meet our obligations. The city government should do the same. I don’t think this is an “anti-tax” vote so much as it’s an “anti-waste” mandate. If we felt we could trust our elected officials to make conservative decisions it would be easier to authorize the funding. I personally will find it difficult to vote for re-election of any of them.

    Lee
    November 4, 2009 at 10:11 pm