The Collegian article covering last monthâ€™s annual State of the City Address raised some concerns and generated a few questions. I want to take this opportunity to address some of the rumors that Iâ€™ve been hearing since the mayor and I delivered the speech on Jan. 26.
The focus of this yearâ€™s State of the City Address was to lay the groundwork for a conversation about community expectations and the Cityâ€™s ability to deliver on those expectations.
Fort Collins is a great place to live, work and go to school. Every year we receive national recognition for our healthy economy, our vibrant community, our educated workforce and our unique quality of life.
Despite this, weâ€™ve got pressing, unfunded needs, particularly in the areas of police, fire, transportation, parks and recreation. The State of the City outlined the details of each of these needs. You can watch the video of the event online at fcgov.com/soc, but hereâ€™s a snapshot of the challenges weâ€™re facing.
Police Services: A police staffing study completed in 2007 indicates that the city needs to hire an additional 50 police officers and civilians to provide the level of service that is expected by the community.
Fire Services: Poudre Fire Authorityâ€™s strategic plan demonstrates a need for an additional fire station and firefighters to maintain response times throughout the entire community.
Transportation: It will take an additional $6.5 million annually to simply maintain our streets, fill potholes and make basic repairs. And thatâ€™s before we take on bridges, new roadways, interchanges and transit.
Parks Maintenance and Recreation: The significant reduction in parkâ€™s maintenance funding over the past years has created a substantial gap. At the same time, weâ€™ve cut more than $1 million of general Fund money from recreation programs and facilities. Keeping up with future park maintenance and recreation needs will require an additional $2 million annually.
As a community, we need to determine how to address these funding needs. The mayor and I were very straightforward with our options: We either cut more of the services that make our community unique or we increase revenues.
Already, people are rightfully concerned about how these options will impact their day-to-day lives. Weâ€™ve all seen whatâ€™s happening in Colorado Springs. Due to budget constraints, the city of Colorado Springs is shutting off more than a third of their streetlights.
When visiting parks, residents are now encouraged to pack out their own litter and use their own lawn mowers to maintain green spaces. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city of Colorado Springs will not pay for any street paving this year.
Thankfully, we are not at that point here in Fort Collins, and I think I can safely say that no one wants to see us get to that point. To make sure that doesnâ€™t happen, we need to have an honest conversation about our future.
Your involvement in this dialog is critical. After all, CSU students play a major role in developing the character of our community and you are large consumers of city services, from Transfort to bike trails and parks to Old Town Square.
Over the next several months youâ€™ll have many chances to engage in a straightforward conversations about planning and providing for our future. It starts with getting informed. I encourage you to take advantage of the tools we have put in place to be more transparent about how your tax dollars are spent.
Open Book (http://fcgov.com/openbook) literally opens the cityâ€™s books up to you and posts every dollar the city spends for you to examine. Review the city budget at http://fcgov.com/budget. Pay more attention to the type of city services that you use and enjoy. Start thinking about the kind of community that you want Fort Collins to be. And when the time comes, please engage in the efforts to shape our future.
Darin Atteberry is the Fort Collins City Manager. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 221-6505. Letters and feedback can be sent to email@example.com._