The city of Colorado Springs is looking to cut spending and pull $10 million out of reserves to cover costs for next year. The proposed 2024 budget also calls for a hiring freeze and the elimination of overtime for city workers.
The $428.3 million in planned expenditures is $7.2 million more than the 2023 General Fund budget, or a 1.7 percent increase. That's a modest jump compared to the $23 million increase from budget years 2022 to 2023 — the result of a boost in sales tax revenue.
In a letter to city council, Mayor Yemi Mobolade said the city is "challenged by variable economic conditions and inflationary pressures."
That includes flattened, and in some months declining, sales tax revenue, a trend that is expected to continue into 2024. In anticipation of a drop in revenue, the city is looking to cut operational spending by 3.4 percent.
Citywide reductions in the proposed plan include reducing funding for facilities-related capital projects and not adding new staff positions, among other things. City departments are also being asked to cut expenses and hold vacancies open.
"This has not been an easy decision," Mobolade said in the letter to the council. "All options for balancing the budget were explored to minimize the impact of these reductions to departments and level of service to our community."
At the same time, the budget calls for $8.7 million to be set aside to increase salaries for some city employees, including police and firefighters. In the annual State of the City Address last month, Mobolade continued his push for increased public safety funding, calling upon citizens to support a ballot measure to help fund a new police training facility this November.
"We expect more and more and more from our police, to be brave for us and to be perfect in their interactions with us. Our officers are asking for more training, and our community is asking for better training around de-escalation techniques," he said during the address.
The plan also includes more than $230,000 to fund salaries for five full-time employees for the Colorado Springs Fire Department's Homeless Outreach Program (HOP) which was previously partially grant-funded.
Mobolade's budget continues $500,000 in expenses for shelter bed operations for people experiencing homelessness, as well.
Other expenditures, as defined by the city, identified in the budget are as follows:
- $170,000 of additional funding to Mountain Metro Transit for increased contract costs to sustain transit services, and $180,000 increased funding for security at the Downtown Transit Center.
- Increased funding of $1.3 million in Public Works to provide two positions for traffic signal maintenance.
- Increased funding of $250,000 for capital costs associated with adding school zones near middle and high schools, with the goal of increasing pedestrian safety at all schools over the next several years.
- $34.8 million of capital infrastructure projects at the Colorado Springs Airport to include upgrades to the terminal, runways, and the baggage handling system.
- Approximately $4.4 million of Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) funding for capital projects to include Grey Hawk Park planning and implementation, Legacy Loop trail connections, Fisher Canyon Open Space planning and implementation, and numerous irrigation, signage and planning projects.
- $4.6 million of capital infrastructure projects for the Parking Enterprise to include parking garage structure improvements, parking meter replacement and streetscape projects that make the downtown area more attractive to visitors and businesses.
Colorado Springs City Council members will take a closer look at the proposed budget later this month. A public hearing is set for Monday, Oct. 23.
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