Colorado Springs Budget Discussions Could Be Contentious

By Mendoza, Monica | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), October 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Colorado Springs Budget Discussions Could Be Contentious


Mendoza, Monica, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


The 2015 budget season could be a repeat of the 2014 season with City Council debates over the number of budget departments, park watering and outside legal counsel.

Some issues left over from last year will resurface, said councilman Don Knight, who also is on the council's budget committee.

Last year, the City Council had long discussions about how the city's general fund budget is divvied into departments. The council approved a 2014 budget plan that called for the budget to have 12 spending departments, rather than the five departments presented in the mayor's proposed budget. Under the city's charter the mayor can move money within a department without council approval. The council sought to create more departments, as outlined in the city's charter, to ensure there was less movement of money once the budget was approved. It was a way, they said, to be more accountable to taxpayers.

But the move ended with Mayor Steve Bach. He said the council was illegally intruding on the functions of the executive branch, which outlined in the city's charter says the executive branch prepares and presents the budget the way the mayor wants to.

Knight said he expects the issue to resurface. This year's proposed budget is presented with six appropriations departments.

"People think we are counting paper clips," Knight said. "But the mayor has a lot of freedom. Once the budget is signed, that is a contract with the people on how the mayor is spending our tax dollars."

This week, Bach unveiled his proposed $259 million general fund budget. His 2015 budget increases the number of police officers, increases spending in the Information Technology department and increases busing.

See the budget winners and losers here

It also carves out $1.1 million from the general fund for parks watering and moves that expense to the Conservation Trust Fund, which is money that comes to the city from the state lottery. It's not illegal, said Susan Davies, director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition who closely watches the city's park budget. But it does take the money away from other planned projects, like new playground equipment in aging parks.

"We are concerned," she said. "There were certainly projects that we anticipated would be coming forward in 2015 that will now be delayed. …

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