Cutting Boulder's budget -- and 26 jobs along with it

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter is hardly the only local official in these parts staring at ugly budgets. Case in point: Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam, who's sent a budget to the city council featuring $13 million in reductions, achieved by, among many other things, slicing 26 jobs from the payroll. Considering that Ritter's looking at cutting 300 jobs statewide, that's a hefty number. However, no libraries would be closed. This is Boulder, after all.

The hashing of the proposal is slated to begin on August 25. In the meantime, look below for the City of Boulder's preview of the process.

City manager proposes $13 million budget reduction in 2010, focuses on efficiencies

Boulder City Council is set to consider a proposed 2010 budget that cuts total spending by $13 million from the previous year's budget. About $5 million of that savings is from operating budgets for the sales/use tax supported funds.

Council is scheduled to begin studying the city manager's 2010 recommended budget at its Tuesday, Aug. 25 study session. The study session will be aired live on Channel 8. Boulder residents may also provide feedback through the Public Input link on the city Web site:

According to the City Manager's Office, cost savings will be achieved by eliminating approximately 26 full-time equivalent positions, as well as by increasing efficiencies and cutting some nonessential services. Public safety, job creation incentives, and social and environmental sustainability programs continue as priorities under the 2010 recommended budget.

"The continued downturn in the economy has had significant impacts to the city budget," said City Manager Jane Brautigam, "As we plan for next year, the city must reduce the number of employees and restructure how it provides services. The recommended budget takes a long-term approach to addressing the revenue shortfall and, therefore, needs to reduce nonessential services provided to Boulder residents. However, it continues funding for critical services such as police, fire and human services. It also ensures that no library branches or recreation centers will be closed."

Preserving community resources is a position shared by the public.

According to surveys and public outreach responses, Boulder residents said they preferred to have reduced hours at library branches and recreation facilities over completely closing any facilities. Brautigam said community values helped inform the budget process as staff developed a budget that would maintain core government services while closing the structural deficit.

Boulder has been working to close the revenue/expenditure gap since it was identified by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Budget Stabilization in 2008. That report indicated the city faces a $100 million annual shortfall by 2030 if significant measures aren't taken.

The current recession means the city needs to focus on short- and long-term stabilization strategies to control expenditures and minimize impacts on residents. It collected $2.1 million less sales/use taxes than projected for 2008. The downturn extended into 2009, and it is anticipated that the 2010 sales/use tax collections will be lower than originally projected by as much as 8 percent, or $7.2 million.

Brautigam said the 2010 recommended budget includes nearly $5 million in operating reductions to address the sales/use tax shortfall and moves the city toward fiscal sustainability without eliminating core services.

In addition, the 2010 recommended budget reflects the allocation of funding available from the removal of the remaining TABOR restrictions on property tax, approved by voters in November 2008. This will allow the organization to provide funding for core city services such as those identified as critical deficiencies, including fire apparatus, information technologies, energy costs and facility maintenance.

As Boulder continues to focus on closing the funding gap identified by BRC I and adjusting to the new economy, Brautigam said the city will need to implement new methods to determine how limited resources can be used to best meet the city's responsibility of delivering basic and essential services at a reasonable level.

The proposed budget is available for review at Council is expected to vote on the final budget Oct. 20.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts