Sep 162010
 
Authors: Vashti Batjargal

The City of Fort Collins is struggling to maintain the quality of life that Fort Collins residents are accustomed to.

City Manager Darin Atteberry presented the recommended budget cuts that will take $5.4 million from previously-funded programs and facilities Monday at the Drake Centre.

“We are not the federal government. We cannot deficit spend,” said Diane Jones, deputy city manager.

If the proposed budget passes many Fort Collins recreation programs will suffer, including some that CSU students utilize on a daily basis.

Located just south of campus, The Gardens on Spring Creek hosted a summer partnership with CSU’s Horticulture Department for the “Twilight Garden Series” and the Plant Select Demonstration Garden.

The gardens also typically hire a horticulture intern from CSU for the summer and into the fall semester.

“I picked up quite a bit of information working hands-on with the irrigation –– it follows along with some of my classes,” said Dillon Hancock, a senior horticulture major and intern at the garden.

The city is proposing a 30 percent, or about $100,000, cut to the Gardens funding stream. The decrease would pull about 25 percent of their full budget because it receives 23 percent of its budget from Friends of the Gardens on Spring Creek, a local non-profit and $13,000 from its 350 members.

If the cuts go through, the garden will close on Sunday and Monday and lay off its full-time horticulturist and a staff position.

The flower gardens are a tourist destination in Fort Collins with visitors coming from 17 different Colorado cities, 32 different states and four foreign countries in a six-week period over the summer.

Michelle Provaznik, director of the gardens, said by bringing in tourists from all over the state and country the group is making an economic impact on the city. In addition to attracting newcomers, latest reports show the gardens donating 2,869 pounds of food to the Larimer County Food Bank.

The staff also supports and funds a community garden outreach program in low-income areas through a Poudre Valley Health System grant it received.

“We’re also delving in the arts with our Sculpture program and making a social impact with the Garden of Eatin,’” Provaznik said.

The proposed budget cuts are not final and depend on the voters November decision on an .85 percent sales tax increase.making an economic impact on the city.

In addition to attracting newcomers, latest reports show the gardens donate 2,869 pounds of food to the Larimer County Food Bank.

The staff also supports and funds a community garden outreach program in low-income areas through a Poudre Valley Health System grant it received.

“We’re also delving in the arts with our Sculpture program and making a social impact with the Garden of Eatin,’” Provaznik said.

The proposed budget cuts are not final and depend on the voters November decision on the sales tax increase.

If the sales tax is approved by voters it would bring in an estimated $18.5 million to city revenue, according to Atteberry.

Fifty percent would go toward roads and other transportation infrastructure and services and 11 percent would go toward parks maintenance and recreation services among other areas, according to the city website.

Atteberry is unsure how the city will allocate funds within the recreation department if voters approve the sales tax increase.

Rita Schaelicke, who visits the gardens with her 4-year-old son Matti for the Read and Seed Program, said it’s the only children’s garden in the area.

“I don’t think it gets enough PR for people to really enjoy it. They have this treasure and most of us don’t pay a penny,” Schaelicke said.

Under the proposed budget the city’s Fourth of July celebration will be eliminated as well as the flowers and some maintenance to Old Town.

The Mulberry Pool will be closed completely and the Discovery Science Center will reduce its hours by one day.

Staff writer Vashti Batjargal can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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