Mar 5, 2010 10:09 PM by David Ortiviz
The City of Pueblo is dealing with money woes, that could impact services. January's sales tax revenues fell -1.1% from the same time a year ago. "Housing starts are down, commercial construction is down, that's the lion's share of that use tax money that comes in," said Jerry Pacheco, City Manager for the City of Pueblo.
Pacheco says the city's financial forecast is gloomy. "We're projecting that 2010 revenue is going to be flat compared to 2009," said Pacheco.
If sales tax revenues remain flat, residents may feel the pain. "There are some fees that probably need to be raised, or we need to cut back on services," said Pacheco.
In fact, some cuts have already started. "It's going to take a longer to respond to complaints, to fill potholes, to mow grass," said Pacheco.
Pacheco says it doesn't help that the city workforce has shrunk 10%--a result of retirements and last year's hiring freeze, which is no longer in place. The city has 72 vacant positions. "We certainly are going to fill some of those positions, because they are critical need so we are not going to carry 72 positions vacant all year," said Pacheco.
Jobs may be filled, but Pacheco says city workers will also be impacted. "Certainly we're going to go into labor negotiations with no across the board salaries increases," said Pacheco. "I don't think we could justify that to the public, and certainly I don't think we could bare that given our flat tax receipts," he added.
Many city employees are members of a union. Pacheco says their contracts don't allow furloughs, so in a worst case scenario the city would have to lay-off workers. "Certainly I'm going to do everything we can to make sure we don't lay anybody off, and I don't think we will," said Pacheco. "Even in 2011 I think we can sharpen our pencil, do some things-hopefully some creative things to get us through," he added.
On the bright side, next year the city begins collecting property tax revenues from Vestas, a wind turbine factory located south of Pueblo. Also, Black Hills Energy may build two new power plants which could bring another surge for the city's budget.
"We just need to ride the wave, we're a pretty lean, mean operation as it is and we'll get through it," said Pacheco.