Things are looking up for the city’s financial situation, according to the 2014 proposed budget prepared by city staff.
“The combination of tight fiscal policy and slightly better revenues over the last few years has resulted in the general fund having a healthy 2013 projected ending fund balance,” writes City Manager Michael Penny in the overview. “Even though recent revenue results are positive, the city is taking a temperate financial outlook for 2014.”
According to the document, the city expects to take in about $52.5 million next year, a 4.2 percent increase over what it expects to take in this year. Sales and use taxes, the city’s major revenue source, are expected to near $28 million in 2014, up from a recent low of about $22 million in 2010.
Most of the general fund goes to personnel expenses, which will be about $38 million in 2014. Penny has proposed a 3 percent increase for city employees, though a citizens’ committee is in the process of reviewing how it would be distributed to remain a competitive employer.
“Salaries have been fairly anemic,” said Erich Won Savage, human resources director, as council reviewed the proposed budget Sept. 10. “I would say right now we’re barely keeping pace.”
He pointed out that the city will see no increase in its health-care costs next year, as wellness programs and an employee-health clinic have helped rein in expenses.
A proposal to give the new city attorney a $52,000 raise fell on ambivalent ears. Council just approved a contract with Ken Fellman in June, in which they agreed to pay him $200 an hour.
“I’m not a big fan of this,” said Mayor Debbie Brinkman. “I understand it’s probably more reasonable, but I definitely don’t want to see this come back next year.”
Residents are likely to see a jump in their sewer rates in 2014, as staff is proposing a 2 percent increase to offset future improvements that will be required by state and federal regulations.
“We still need to make a public case for ramping up, with what we know is coming,” said Councilor Bruce Beckman. Councilors Jerry Valdes and Peggy Cole want to wait until the work starts to raise the fees, but Councilor Phil Cernanec and Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Stahlman contemplated raising them even more, by as much as 3 percent this year.
The council chambers and city manager’s office will be slated for remodels should the budget pass as written, at a cost of about $194,000. Penny wants to remove the “pit” from chambers, the lowered area from which the public addresses the city council, saying it serves to intimidate.
“We know it’s a substantial amount of money, but it’s time,” he said.
Under the proposed budget, library late fees would go up from a dime to 20 cents a day, Little’s Creek Park’s lake would be dredged, the Littleton Community Trail would be extended to Littleton Boulevard and another $1 million would be allotted to South Platte River projects.
New programs the budget would create include an expansion of business revitalization grants from $50,000 to $75,000 and a neighborhood partnership program in the community development department.
“We really think this is going to help our community development staff, as well, especially the mediation piece,” said Glen VanNimwegen, community development director. “We spend a lot of time on mediation.”
Not everyone was convinced.
“I just don’t see the need to keep increasing stuff,” said Valdes. “I’d rather it go where I know we need it rather than to new things.
Cole’s idea to place kinetic sculptures around the city idea was a flop.
“I think we have got bigger fish to fry than this,” said Stahlman.