Dec 27, 2010 6:33 PM by Zach Thaxton
Streetlights will be turned back on in 2011. Saturday bus service is also coming back and parks and medians will once again receive trash cans and TLC. But Uncle Wilber and Julie Penrose fountains will likely remain dry. Thus is the budget reality for Colorado Springs in the New Year.
"We're in a much-improved situation," said city spokesman John Leavitt. "The budget has increased by about 10 percent, which has allowed the City Council to add back many of the services that were taken away to balance the budget in 2010."
The General Fund budget for 2011 is $222,476,000, an increase of $10.2 million compared to 2010, according to a memo to City Council from interim City Manager Steve Cox. The improved budget situation is tied to a 10-month increase in sales and use tax collections, helped in part by the surging medical marijuana industry. "About $50,000 a month has come into the city from sales tax related to that particular industry," Leavitt said.
The improved budget situation will mean restoration of some popular services cut in 2010. Residential streetlights that were turned off in 2010 to save money will be turned back on beginning the second week of January. Maintenance and watering of city parks and medians will resume in 2011 and trash bins will once again be placed in parks. Saturday service will resume for Mountain Metropolitan Transit.
Other services that suffered in 2010 will remain unfunded and will need community support to continue or resume operation. Community centers will be partly funded by community non-profits. The swimming pool at Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center once again faces closure if no private or non-profit funding source steps forward. Other pools and the beach at Prospect Lake will remain closed as they were in 2010. Julie Penrose Fountain in America the Beautiful Park and Uncle Wilber Fountain in Acacia Park will only operate if private or non-profit funding sources emerge. Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center, Starsmore Discovery Center, and Rock Ledge Ranch also face closure if outside funding isn't secured.
In his presentation to City Council earlier this month, Cox warned that the economic recovery remains precarious and many analysts believe a double-dip recession may be on the horizon. "It seems like we always have Cadillac expectations but a Chevrolet budget," Leavitt said.