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Publish Date: 9/1/2005

City to slash budget
$7 million cut reflects poor financial outlook

LONGMONT — Bowing to the reality that Longmont’s financial future looks lousy, city officials are proposing a bare-bones $186.6 million budget for next year.

Only three new positions are created in the 2006 proposal: a meter-reading supervisor, a telecommunications specialist and an “economic vitality coordinator” who will help recruit new businesses and employers, advise on Main Street redevelopment and otherwise seek to improve the city’s financial fortunes.

The budget plan, which is still subject to public hearings and alterations by the City Council, is 3.7 percent smaller than this year’s budget. The document was distributed to council-
members late Tuesday night, and they enjoyed a brief moment of levity before city manager Gordon Pedrow delivered the bad news.

“It’s bigger this year,” said Mayor Julia Pirnack with laugh, hefting the 478-page document. “Does that mean we get to spend more money?”

Responded Pedrow: “Nope.”

He then offered his opinion of the city’s fortunes and his approach to creating the spending plan.

“This proposed budget for 2006 can best be described as a maintaining-the-current-service-level budget, except in the area of economic vitality, which is a proposed new effort,” Pedrow said in his budget announcement to the council.

The plan is 3.7 percent, or about $7 million, smaller than this year’s budget. Tax revenues for this year have forced a slowdown in city spending, and the proposed budget is smaller to reflect the continuing uncertainty with the economy.

The 2006 proposal provides for:

Average pay raises of 1.9 percent for both open and step-pay positions, $33,000 for new police department Tasers, $709,000 to continue pushing the St. Vrain Greenway trail east toward Sandstone Ranch, $1.57 million to remodel the former city hall and museum into a one-stop center for developers and builders to apply for projects or get permits,

$250,000 to support affordable-housing programs,

$83,000 to expand the city’s housing safety inspection program, in which an inspector visits rental units and homes to ensure they meet safety and health codes.

Officially, there are 3.85 new full-time equivalent employees to be hired under the budget. In reality, there are just three new positions, along with increases to several part-time positions. Pedrow said department heads requested the creation of 70 new positions.

New people will eventually have to be hired; a recently conducted staffing study said the police department alone needs about 32 new people — 15 officers and 17 support staff.

The sole major initiative in the budget is the economic vitality coordinator, who will work with private groups such as the Longmont Area Economic Council to make sure the city is doing everything it can to attract and retain jobs and shops.

That person, who has not yet been hired, will report directly to Pedrow. Pirnack said she would have questions during budget hearings about how to avoid duplicating the efforts of well-regarded groups such as LAEC.

Said Pedrow in announcing the plan: “Without the resources to comprehensively develop and execute an economic strategy, I believe our efforts to enhance economic vitality will become too fragmented to be effective.”

Budget hearings will begin later this month.

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

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