Denver's first major cut in latest budget crisis: the last thirty days

John Hickenlooper.
John Hickenlooper.

How dizzying is the budget crisis looming over Denver? So dizzying that city officials don't even know what day it is anymore. On Friday, July 10, Mayor John Hickenlooper's office sent out a press release featuring the ominous headline, "City of Denver Must Cut $120 Million to Balance Budget Over Next 18 Months," and included with it was a copy of a letter sent out to city employees under Hick's signature explaining the scope of the challenges ahead. Problem is, the letter was dated "June 10, 2009." Apparently, the administration's first cut was an entire month on the calendar.

Click "Continue" to read the release, as well as the aforementioned letter.

City of Denver Must Cut $120 Million to Balance Budget Over Next 18 Months

DENVER, CO ­-- JULY 10, 2009 -- Mayor John Hickenlooper today announced that $120 million must be cut from the City's budget over the next 18 months.

Core sales tax revenue generated in Denver during the month of May, year over year, was down 10.7 percent. This marks the eighth consecutive month of significant revenue decline, and for the year sales tax revenue is down a combined 12.7 percent. State sales tax revenue was down 13.9 percent in May and RTD saw an 12.3 percent drop in revenue.

The decline in sales tax along with the decline in other revenue sources has prompted the City to revise the amount of money needed to cut from the City budget over the next 18 months. The new total of $120 million is 12.6 percent of the total general fund budget of about $950 million.

"A series of unforeseen events nationwide led to the challenging circumstances we face," Hickenlooper told City employees in a letter today. "But we will face them head-on and we will face them with the same spirit that makes our City strong. We all know that making good financial decisions today, even though they are difficult decisions, will put us in a better position to manage the organization no matter what the future holds."

Departments in all corners of the City have started submitting proposed budgets for 2010. To help shape next year's budget, the City held a series of six community meetings in June to ask citizens about their priorities for City services and programs. Thousands of people attended a meeting or completed a survey on the City's Web site.

The City is not waiting to find ways to save money. Already, the City has saved a combined $16.8 million in Career Service, appointee and safety personnel costs; saved $230,000 by realigning custodial schedules in City Hall and the Webb Building; and saved about $22.2 million in operational costs, such as deferment of equipment replacement, holding open additional vacant positions and savings in supplies and services where appropriate.

City employees have been encouraged to suggest additional ways to cut costs or work more efficiently. Citizens can also still complete a budget survey at www.denvergov.org. The survey will be available online through the end of July.

Here is the letter sent to City employees today:

June [sic] 10, 2009

Dear City Employees:

Our fiscal challenges continue. Core sales tax revenue generated in Denver during the month of May, year over year, was down 10.7 percent. This marks the eighth consecutive month of significant revenue decline, and for the year sales tax revenue is down a combined 12.7 percent. Other government agencies are struggling as well. State sales tax revenue was down 13.9 percent in May and RTD saw an 12.3 percent drop in revenue.

This decline in sales tax, along with the decline in other revenue sources, has prompted us to revise the amount of money we need to be cut from the City budget over the next 18 months to $120 million. That's 12.6 percent of the total general fund budget of about $950 million.

A series of unforeseen events nationwide led to the challenging circumstances we face. But we will face them head-on and we will face them with the same spirit that makes our City strong. We all know that making good financial decisions today, even though they are difficult decisions, will put us in a better position to manage the organization no matter what the future holds.

Departments in all corners of the City have started submitting proposed budgets for 2010. We continue to seek feedback from all of you and our community and to discuss our priorities with City Council. We will propose cuts based on these discussions in the coming weeks and months. As we have been doing all year, we will share with you the significant budget decisions as we make them.

In the meantime, we thank you for your continued outstanding service to our community and for the many ideas you have shared that help us to work better and more efficiently. You can contact us at MileHighMayor@denvergov.org or call 720-865-8181. We appreciate your sacrifices and professionalism during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Mayor John Hickenlooper


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