City budget: The party’s over – turn out the lights

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 During a lengthy and sometimes contentious budget markup session yesterday, City Council gave tentative approval to multiple cost-cutting and revenue generating proposals aimed at balancing next year’s budget.

The measures included:

  • Turning off thousands of streetlights, and letting others go dark for estimated savings of $1.3 million.
  • Eliminating the vendor fee that compensates merchants for the expense incurred in collecting city sales taxes, saving $1.4 million.
  • Furloughing civilian city employees for 10 days next year, saving $1.35 million. Uniformed police officers and firefighters will not be furloughed, nor will essential civilian public safety personnel.
  • Removing $500,000 from the budget that might have been used to pay for an election next November.
  • Increasing the city’s share of the lodging and automobile rental tax from 37 percent to 50 percent, generating about $450,000 of additional revenue.
  • Transferring $875,000 from the city parking enterprise to the general fund.

Council left intact most of the city manager’s proposed cuts, which fall most heavily on parks, recreational and cultural facilities.

At the suggestion of Councilman Sean Paige, council agreed to pay for community centers, Rockledge Ranch and the Pioneers Museum for the first three months of 2010, with the hope that community-based solutions might be found to keep them open.

“I’m confident that people will step up,” Paige said.

Council also reinstated the positions of 21 cadets enrolled in the police academy who are scheduled to become police officers on Jan. 1, and avoided layoffs in public safety.

Councilman Tom Gallagher, who has strongly advocated pay cuts during recent weeks, expressed anger at city employees.

“The city pays very well. Salaries need to be commensurate with the labor market in this town,” he said. “City employees have turned viciously on the people of this community.”

Other members of council took issue with Gallagher’s remarks.

Denying that city employees were overpaid, Councilman Bernie Herpin said that they are well-compensated because of their professional skills and that to compare city levels of compensation with the private sector is inappropriate.

“Colorado Springs is a service-oriented community, and many people work in the fast food industry, for Wal-Mart and (for similar employers),” he said. “We should compare them (city employee salaries) to those in the defense industry, like myself.”

Councilwoman Jan Martin also criticized Gallagher for his attacks on city employees.  Martin said that employees have done nothing wrong.

“They’ve worked hard, they’ve done their jobs,” she said, “This situation is not their fault.”

6 Responses to City budget: The party’s over – turn out the lights

  1. And so it begins. Dark streets, more tax on the tourists that help keep our small businesses in the black, and robbing Peter to pay Paul. I hope the citizens of Colorado Springs will not have to suffer graver consequences than these before they come to their senses . . .

    Ellen
    November 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm

  2. Suggestions to the city. Streetlights out from 1:00am – dawn in residential areas. Our streetlights are somewhat dim so we light the front of our home. Neighbors benefit in a lit sidewalk. We benefit because it has the potential to cut down on vandalism.

    Don’t widen streets where future growth is in question at this time. In the tech bust, GoG Rd was widened between Agilent Technologies (then HP) and Intel. Those parking lots are almost empty. Why widen the road? Traffic on Woodmen Rd., west is not that heavy. Why spend the money to widen that road?

    Not to attack city employees, but when I worked at Agilent Technologies, they thought nothing of cutting my pay 10% to help save jobs. 90% of something is still better than 100% of nothing. Now a city employee may say, “it’s easy for me to dictate…” Right now I’m at 60% of my pre-tech-bust pay, even after having my wife go back to work. 60% of something is still better than 100% of nothing. We don’t like it, but we’re surviving in these tight times right now.

    Make it inviting for corporations to move to Colorado Springs. Get some primary industry in the area. Get some diversification on that primary industry. The secondary industries in this area (plummers, electricians, movie theaters, Wal-Mart, insurance agents, and other service related industries) can only feed on each other for so long (two ticks and no dog). Without an additional influx of cash, Colorado Springs will continue to have to tighten its belt. Get more diversified. Sure, we have defense and high tech. High tech feeds off of defense, and defense off the government. When (not if) Obama starts transferring tax dollars away defense towards social (communistic) programs and the defense industry starts to lay off, we’ll really feel it. That unthinkable thing happened in the early 90s in Silicon Valley. Let’s diversify our primary industries. Let’s make it profitable to manufacture things in Colorado Springs. Lets turn this area into a business friendly community.

    That’s my two cents. It’s only worth what you paid for it.

    Christopher Colvin
    November 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm

  3. I agree with Christopher, the private sector has had to take pay cuts and job losses but somehow the “city” employees are different. They are different o right, over at PJ there are 8 “city” employees watching 2 other “city” employees work. City employees get paid above the average salary in Colorado Springs but can’t afford a pay cut. BS

    BigBadDog
    November 10, 2009 at 7:54 pm

  4. Yeah, let’s all just work at low paying shit jobs like Walmart. Cut good paying city wages. Let’s just all be screwed together.

    Yeah, let’s cut taxes too. Who cares if 94% of the Colorado Springs economy depends on taxes. Peterson, Norad, Air Force acad, Fort Carson, they are all private enterprises of course.
    Home building almost entirely depends on the military. What? The military gets funding from taxes?
    I thought they were a private enterprise! McDonald Douglas, Boeing, all the high tech companies get funding from the Defense budget. Gee, where does the Defense get there money? Taxes, oh it couldn’t be.

    Well maybe socialism isn’t so bad after all. Here people reading this article wish they had a city job. And they are pissing about their capitalist, private sector job. Hmmm, seems like the capitalist job system is working just fine. You know, make as much as you can, screw everyone else. You know, send all possible jobs to other countries. If you have a $40 Million management position God has “blessed” you.
    Can I hear an “Amen”???? Ah, the wonderful capitalist system!!!

    You need a job? Oh, screw you, you whiner. The capitalist system says you should just go die and starve because you can not work for as cheap as Indians.

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

    Honest Dude
    November 11, 2009 at 9:57 am

  5. Has an evaluation of like jobs (not comparing non-comparable jobs, the answer which you control), been done? We need to know exactly what city employees are paid as compared to similar jobs.

    We all know you can slant an evaluation to reflect the outcome you want.

    An honest study is needed, I don’t see that this has been accomplished.

    As Colvin states, 60 – 90 percent of something is better than 100% of nothing. But I see only ‘services’, which affect citizens, suggested. Just like the before election threat of cutting Pioneer Museum or Rockledge etc. etc. adressed..

    Retired Citizen
    November 11, 2009 at 11:29 am

  6. OK, Honest Dude I can only take so much… It sounds like you think Socialism, Marxism, or Communism (pick your poison) will solve everything. Why don’t you really take an honest look at history my dear socialist friend! Socialism does nothing but bring everyone’s pay and standard of living to its lowest possible common denominator, with of course the exception of the corrupt “Party” leaders, who end up with all the money. Is this starting to sound familiar? “The public option is good enough for the people, but not good enough for congress, we are special after all.” I guess if your goal is to make everyone, that is not running the government equally miserable and removing any hope of being able to make your own destiny it is a good plan. I however do not believe that is the direction that “We the People” want our leadership to take.

    Back to the issue at hand, I believe that Retired Citizen has a point and if there is an honest study available, I would be willing to look at it and weigh it against what seems logical. Which for most citizens would be that they would rather take a pay cut and keep their job than to lose it altogether or have a friend or co-worker loses theirs? Yes even I a mean hearted, cold blooded capitalist, working hard for a publicly traded company that has at its head a CEO that makes more than you think is fair have willing taken a pay cut to assure the survival of our company and help reduce the chances of us having to lay off employees.

    I agree that the city has tough decisions to make, and that the sins of our past are being visited upon us now. The answer is not always “raise taxes” just like the answer is not always “cut taxes” and “We the People” need to back off and let the people we elect do the job we elected them for. If at election time, we do not believe they are doing a good job we need to get off our collective behinds and vote for someone that we believe will, and hold them accountable for their performance. Oh, that almost sounds like capitalism, and I know that is a bad word now. By the way, if you are going to be upset about the income of CEO’s and other executives, please check the salaries of your favorite basketball & football teams and players. Maybe the President needs to appoint a salary Czar for them too.

    SC
    November 12, 2009 at 3:38 pm