Capital spending largely spared by city’s budget ax
The economic recession that has drained Grand Junction of a few pints of its financial lifeblood — sales-tax revenue — has left its mark across virtually all aspects of city government.
All regular full- and part-time workers will take a 3 percent pay cut next year. Program and operational spending has been slashed. City residents could see a reduction in services if revenue doesn’t rebound in the first quarter of 2010.
But budget managers deciding how to spend $134 million next year have purposely steered their scalpel clear of one area: capital projects.
The city is prepared to invest $30 million in 2010 in roads, new equipment and upgraded infrastructure. That’s only $4 million less than this year, when officials started or completed big-ticket initiatives including the 29 Road viaduct over the Interstate 70 Business Loop and the Independent Ranchman’s Ditch flood-control project.
City Manager Laurie Kadrich said an emphasis on new construction and updating equipment keeps money flowing, creates jobs, and allows the city to take advantage of low interest rates and reduced prices.
“The research we’ve done on communities that have gone into this recession ahead of us, the number one thing they have said that has maintained them is investment in capital projects,” she said.
The City Council last week agreed to issue $3.2 million in bonds to pay for three projects that will expand and maintain sewer lines. It also signed off on borrowing $3.8 million to replace 6 1/2 miles of old water pipe.
The decision to make capital spending a priority is welcome news for local contractors, who have been forced to sit on their hands for the last year. Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. reported last week that total construction employment nationally has shrunk by more than 15 percent in the past 12 months, resulting in the loss of 1.1 million jobs.
“This will be part of Grand Junction’s stimulus program to keep jobs and businesses going,” Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein said.
Contractors starving for work will offer more competitive prices for their services than two years ago, when the economy was robust and most anyone who wanted a job had one. And, lower construction material costs and interest rates allow the city to get more out of its money.
“Not only can we keep the local economy going, we can get more done for the dollars we had set aside,” Kadrich said.
The city and Mesa County have jointly applied for a $20 million federal stimulus grant that would pay for the bulk of the 29 Road project, which will create a new interchange at I-70B and an overpass over I-70B and the Union Pacific railroad tracks. Kadrich said if the city and county receive any or all of that grant, the city plans to invest its portion of the savings in other capital projects.