Mayor's Plan For $120M In Budget Cuts Includes 176 Layoffs

Proposed Budget Presented To City Council

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday presented plans to cut $120 million from the city budget, including eliminating 176 city jobs.

Hickenlooper said that with the cuts, the city budget will be balanced, but by Nov. 16, 176 people across 13 city departments will not have jobs. The departments affected include Human Services and Parks and Recreation but does not include the police or fire departments.

However, if the city and fire unions don't make concessions about pay raises, the number of layoffs will be even higher. On top of that, another 191 police officers, firefighters and sheriff's deputies could lose their jobs if they don't agree to forgo raises.

Under the mayor's plan, city workers won't get a raise next year and will have to take five unpaid days off. Six hundred positions won't be filled.

Under Hickenlooper's plan, the biggest number of layoffs -- 85 -- would come in the city's human services department partly because of cuts in state funding. The economic development office would lose 29 people.

The mayor is also proposing to raise $21 million through about 40 fee increases, including one that would charge non-residents for the cost of responding to traffic accidents if they're at fault. That would bring in $1.1 million a year.

The cuts also include the closing and selling of a major library and a major reduction in city services. The city wants to shutter Byers Library, located near Santa Fe and 7th Avenue, and cut library hours to eight hours or less.

Hickenlooper also proposed closing four recreation centers, and is in talks with private groups to see if they will take them over instead.

A trash pickup fee of $10 had been considered but isn't part of the proposal.

Police Officers, Firefighters

Police officers have rejected a proposal to give up a 4.5 percent pay raise but Hickenlooper chief of staff Kelly Brough said talks are in the works to give them another chance to accept the city's offer.

"We're very hopeful that we'll give them a second chance," she said.

Votes by firefighters and sheriff's deputies are still pending. The concessions the city is asking for would save $11.8 million. If public safety workers reject them, the city will have to lay off workers in their departments.

The budget is lean with little wiggle room. City planners said that if they learned anything, in this year of historically low sales revenue, is that they must find a way as a city to move forward and do more with less -- a way of life that many people have come to terms with.

"The whole notion that the consumer is going to start spending like the consumer used to spend is not one we would bet our budget on. And what we're doing with our team is we're talking to them about the fact that we need sustainable savings going forward, in every year. We'll continue to look, even after this budget process, at ways that we can streamline what we do, do it more effectively, deliver the same amount of service, or even more, with less resources," said Claude Pumilia, the city's chief financial planner.

Earlier this summer, Hickenlooper warned that all residents would feel the effect of the cuts, which were triggered by a 12.7 percent drop in sales tax revenue. It is the biggest drop in city revenues since the Great Depression.

"Creating the 2010 budget presented the city with one of the most difficult financial challenges in many decades," Hickenlooper wrote in a letter addressed to the city council, city employees and Denver residents. "We approached this budget process with a focus on maintaining the core services that are most critical to our citizens, while at the same time identifying sustainable savings that strengthen our ability to deliver services more efficiently and effectively."

The plan now goes to the City Council, which is expected to make a final decision on cuts in November.

The city said for ideas on cost cutting, it carefully evaluated more than 900 ideas from city employees and incorporated input from six community meetings held in June and from an online budget survey that attracted more than 3,700 responses.

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