Aug 9, 2011 4:52 PM by David Ortiviz

City of Pueblo faces bleak budget outlook

It's been a rough economic week nationwide and now there are new signs our local economy is worsening. Sales tax revenues are declining in Pueblo and there are projections the city will have to cut $7 million from next year's budget.

Pueblo's sales tax revenues hit their lowest mark in nine months. In June revenues were down 7% and year-to-date up a marginal one percent.

It's a recipe for a gloomy 2012 budget forecast, with an estimated $7 million dollar shortfall. "I would like to say it's not as bad as it looks, but we have to plan for the future and these are very dire times," said Ray Aguilera, City Council President.

City leaders are used to pinching pennies. This time last year, they had to cut $9 million from the budget. About two dozen vacant jobs were left unfilled. Aguilera says the city will likely go down that same path next year. "We're really looking very hard at not having to lay anybody off," said Aguilera.

However, financial cuts are likely. Aguilera says there's talk once again of reducing funding for the city-county health department. The city's annual contribution--$800,000. Aguilera points out, besides Pueblo and Denver, every other health department in the state is run entirely by their county. "These are discussions that we've had that have been very contentious, but it doesn't mean that we can't continue to talk," said Aguilera.

Talks on how to balance the budget are just beginning, but it's clear Aguilera says, the outlook is bleak. "We don't know if we're still in a recession, or if we're going into another recession," said Aguilera.

Back in April, we told you there was talk of reducing salaries for certain firefighters and police officers in unions. But the Pueblo City Clerk tells News First 5 that plan is now dead because of union opposition.



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