Five of the seven "key results" City Council indicates as important to the Fort Collins community will be compromised if the proposed 2006-2007 city budget is adopted.
Citizens can now offer feedback to the City Council on the recommended budget, recently published by the City Manager's office. The first reading of an ordinance adopting the proposed budget is scheduled for Nov. 2.
There are some issues in the budget that are commendable. For instance, the city plans to convert all of their diesel service vehicles to run on bio-fuel, which pollutes less than regular diesel.
However, the city is also attempting to cut $5 million in spending to prevent raising taxes. These possible cuts dramatically affect Fort Collins.
In fact, five of the seven key results the City Council indicated as important to the Fort Collins community will be compromised. These five are: cultural and educational opportunities, neighborhood quality, safety, economic health, and transportation.
City Council stated citizens want Fort Collins government to provide "quality cultural, recreational, open space/natural areas and educational opportunities to enrich lives."
Yet the budget calls for a cut in the number of exhibits at the Lincoln Center museum, closing the Youth Activity Center, a reduced number of lifeguards during some hours at the Senior Center, and a reduction of library funding.
"I consider it a profound impact," said Brenda Carns, library director for Fort Collins. (CQ)es
Both the Main Library downtown and the Harmony Library at Front Range Community College will have to reduce their hours by four hours a week, affecting an estimated 250 library customers.
The teen program will also be reduced by 50 percent.
"It's cutting back on not only having someone in the facility to help teens with their information needs," Carns said. "But also it will severely cut back on the programs and our ability to provide them."
These are not the only cuts, however.
City Council wanted to improve neighborhood quality, including "safety, livability, choices and affordability of neighborhoods."
Yet the budget eliminates neighborhood street cleaning, reduces affordable housing projects by $600,000 and reduces street tree replacement by 50 percent.
City Council called for safer communities, yet does not include money in the budget for police staffing increases. According to the budget proposal, this will "eliminate officer response to some types of calls, such as burglar alarms . . . (and) some minor assaults." It also states fewer cases will be actively investigated, reduced ability to respond to noise violations, and a reduced response time to non-emergency calls.
Economic health, another category City Council identified, will be affected negatively by the city budget.
"For a community to be economically viable, it has to be inclusive," said Elliott Cisneros, director of the Human Rights Resource and Education Office, citing the research of Richard Florida in "The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class." (CQ)es
The budget calls for the elimination of the Human Rights Resource and Education Office. This office provides a receiving service for reports of discrimination, educational programs and retreats for youth and adults, and partnerships with community organizations to provide cultural celebrations such as Martin Luther King Day.
"The Human Rights Office helps to make Fort Collins inclusive," Cisneros said. "And that inclusivity is a necessary foundation for economic viability."
The City Manager is required by law to enforce anti-discrimination ordinances, and if the Human Rights Office is eliminated, less experienced personnel in the City Manager's office will have to receive complaints and enforce ordinances.
Transportation will also be affected by the proposed budget; despite the fact City Council identified it as key result for Fort Collins citizens.
Instead of patching potholes using permanent methods, the city will use cheaper, temporary patches that will eventually have to be replaced. The Pavement Management Program will be reduced $700,000.
In addition, Tranfort Dial-a-Ride services, which provide transportation for the disabled, will be reduced.
"We made difficult choices about how to provide the most important services in efficient ways – without 'thinning the soup' or the often applied solution of across-the-board cuts which weakens all programs equally," writes City Manager Darin Atteberry in the proposed budget. (CQ)es
If this is true and the budget is cutting services considered less important than all others provided by the city, other options should be examined.
Though we may occasionally grumble about taxes, they provide services for the community that make Fort Collins a great place to live. If the services discussed above require a tax increase to continue their funding, then we should increase taxes to provide for them.
Fort Collins is a great town with exceptional services for all of its citizens. City Council needs to take action to keep it that way.
The City Manager's office was contacted on Friday, but did not return the call in time.
Ben Bleckley is a senior English major. His column runs every Monday.