Sep 282005
Authors: Hallie Woods

The Fort Collins city budget is on the table, but this year, the Fort Collins public won't be voiceless. For the first time, the City Council is putting some of the responsibility in the hands of its citizens.

With several City Council sessions open to public input, the 2006-07 city budget will be allocated by both city council and public interest.

"It's been very open with the public," said City Councilman Diggs Brown. "And that's what's been so unusual."

Public opinion isn't the only change made in the biennial city budget this year. A new process entitled "budgeting for outcomes" has been implemented by the city manager to bring attention to several key areas for improvement of the city.

"The decision to move away from the traditional incremental budgeting and engage in a more responsive process was made collaboratively by City Council and staff," said Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry in a letter to the council members.

Atteberry has targeted economic and environmental health, neighborhood quality, community safety, cultural/recreational/educational opportunities, transportation improvement and a high-performing government.

"There are seven key results around which we have drawn the budget," said Deputy City Manager Diane Jones. "We put together key purchasing strategies and key results to create the criteria for the budget."

Brown said that while typical businesses begin designating the allotted money for individual areas, the city has started with no budget and worked from the bottom up; it put areas of improvement on the agenda first and decided from there where the money should go.

"It's a new process, so we're all learning," Brown said.

The councilman added that each council member has chosen an area of interest based on his or her involvement in different aspects of the city.

"Everyone agreed though, the economy is most important," Brown said.

The city manager has proposed enhancing certain services to improve the Fort Collins community such as maintenance for local bike trails and the installation of a water slide at the City Park Pool. The budget also allows for a 100 percent conversion of the city's diesel fleet to clean-burning bio diesel.

"This is a pilot program this year for all city vehicles, such as park vehicles, maintenance vehicles, to convert to bio-diesel fuel," Jones said.

However, in order to reach City Council's goal of cutting back by $5 million, the budget also plans for cutbacks. Police staff increasing, park maintenance, Transfort/Dial-a-Ride services, and library hours/outreach programs are all some resources that may be cut back if the proposal goes through. The cutbacks will also completely eliminate neighborhood street sweeping.

Before the city budget is finalized, the City Council, and now the Fort Collins public, spends several months debating over and altering where they see fit.

"We try to be surgical about it, not chop off a limb," Brown said. "We scrape the fat with the scalpel."

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