On Oct.19, during one of City Councilâ€™s bi-monthly meetings, Fort Collins residents packed City Hall and pleaded with councilmembers to spare the various community programs that faced closure or cuts.
Now, three weeks later, they may finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief after last weekâ€™s passage of issue 2B, a citywide .85 percent sales tax increase that will bring in an estimated $18.7 million a year.
As a result of a projected revenue shortfall of $4.5 million in 2010 and $5.4 million in 2012, Fort Collins City Council was forced to look at making cuts in order to balance the budget.
The Senior Center, Dial-a-Ride, Northside Aztlan Center, The Gardens on Spring Creek and The Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center all faced potential reductions in hours and jobs while the Mulberry Pool faced closure.
But after the passage of 2B, City Manager Darin Atteberry said he plans to recommend saving the five programs originally facing cuts and closure.
While the city budget for fiscal year 2012 is not yet set in stone, councilman Wade Troxell, D-4, said itâ€™s unlikely the council would vote in favor of any drastic measures for any of the public services on the table for cuts or closure.
â€œI think that with the passage of 2B, we will still have budgetary challenges, but this helps significantly,â€ Atteberry said. â€œWe may still see some reductions in the 2011 and 2012 budget.â€
The sales tax, which will generate $18.7 million, will be divided as follows:
- $6.2 million will go to the Streets Department
- $3.2 million will go to the Transportation Department
- $3.2 million will go to the Police Services Department
- $2 million will go to Parks and the Recreation Department, and
- $2 million will go to fire services.
â€œIâ€™m happy it passed, but I didnâ€™t think it had a ghost of a chance,â€ said Jim Heaton, a Fort Collins resident and swimmer at Mulberry Pool, when asked about the tax increase.
â€œGovernment services are something we canâ€™t do without and we must pay for them,â€ Heaton said. â€œWe have to pay the piper for what we get.â€
Mulberry Pool, the cityâ€™s first indoor community pool, opened in 1974 and remains one of the few Fort Collins pools available to the public.
â€œItâ€™s very central to the community,â€ Heaton said. â€œIt offers a wide range of services to people like me in their seventies, all the way to down to children and infants.â€
The pool offers lap lanes, a 1-meter diving board, an interactive play area for children and swimming lessons for youths, teens and adults.
â€œWeâ€™re happy that it did pass and thankful to the community,â€ said Mike McDonnell, a recreation supervisor for the City of Fort Collins who oversees ice and aquatics programming.
Debra Bueno, a recreation supervisor for the City of Fort Collins, knew that if 2B didnâ€™t pass, Northside Aztlan Community Center would lose funding for invaluable programs.
â€œThere would be no more teen or youth programs,â€ Bueno said. â€œHow could a community not have those kinds of programs?â€
Bueno described those involved in the community center as â€œcautiously happyâ€ as they wait for the city council to make its final decision on whether or not to cut daytime hours and youth programs.
â€œWeâ€™re very excited that it passed,â€ Bueno said.
City Council beat reporter Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.