City services on chopping block

Under any of the scenarios that Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich outlined for the City Council Monday evening, residents of this city can expect some reduction in the services provided by their municipal government.

That’s unfortunate, but it’s a fact of life in the midst of the Great Recession of the early 21st century.

Grand Junction residents (and city officials) can take some solace in the fact they don’t live in Colorado Springs.

Faced with a $28 million budget shortfall this year, the Front Range city is turning off streetlights, closing restrooms and eliminating trash collection in its parks, shutting down much of its public transit system and auctioning off two police helicopters on the Internet.

Colorado Springs’ budget cuts have been the subject of national news stories and a furious debate between liberals and conservatives over what is to blame.

The anticipated budget reductions in Grand Junction have not reached the level of Colorado Springs’ cuts, but they are serious, nonetheless.

Kadrich presented the council with a responsible — although hardly encouraging — range of revenue projections for the year.

Her most optimistic scenario is that the city will have to cut $2.5 million from the budget the council approved late last year, when the hope was that the city’s 2010 revenue would at least match that of 2009. January sales tax figures demonstrated that is not likely to occur, however. Hence the revised projections.

Kadrich’s most pessimistic estimate is that city revenue will drop $10.2 million compared with last year. Her mid-level estimate is scary enough: City revenue will be $5.6 million below what the city took in last year.

With that in mind, she presented the council with a list of possible cuts that ranged from postponing sidewalk and gutter projects to reducing staff overtime and seasonal work to cutting street paving plans and delaying purchases of items ranging from computers to police cars and uniforms.

There also were proposals to eliminate the city’s spring cleanup program and put weed abatement and code enforcement on hiatus for a year. Those ideas met with immediate resistance from some council members. Council members also debated whether it makes more sense to cut personnel rather than services.

Kadrich and her staff will present more options for cuts next month.

We don’t envy the council and the decisions that must be made in these difficult times. But we’re glad they’re considering the issue carefully and looking at a variety of possibilities.

And we share the concerns of Councilman Gregg Palmer about cuts to public safety. That doesn’t mean the budgets of the police and fire departments should be off limits to cuts. But we hope as council members begin carving money from the budget, they will focus on cuts in less-essential areas and limit cuts to the police and fire departments.


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