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City responds to police union questions

9:09 PM, Aug 13, 2009   |    comments
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The city is facing a budget deficit and has turned to the police for concessions.

The Police Protective Association says the Denver Police Department gave back $2.3 million in March to help the city balance the budget.

But before making more cuts, the PPA wants some answers from Mayor John Hickenlooper's office.

The city has asked the PPA to renegotiate its existing contract, which includes a 4.5 percent pay raise for officers.

So, the PPA submitted a list of questions earlier this week, asking why certain budget decisions were made.

The city responded on Thursday with these answers:

1. In March we provided a balance sheet that projected we would end 2008 with $146m in undesignated fund balance. The final reconciliation and close-out of 2008 was completed on May 29 and that is when we received the new numbers showing 2008 ended with $150 million in fund balance. Both of these figures are lower than our original 2008 projection that was used to build the 2009 budget (see the 2009 budget book balance sheet that projected ending 2008 with a fund balance of $154 million). This 0.4 percent change in late May came at a time when we were also revising 2009 projections down for a third time, based on having three additional months of revenue data. Please note: the projected ending 2009 fund balance when the initial balance sheet was provided in March was $124 million and it is now $114 million. Also, some of the $2.3 million in deferrals from the 2009 contract are already required to be paid back in 2010.

2. We cannot use any voter approved funding for construction projects (Better Denver Bond program) for General Fund operations (outside of the staff directly involved in constructing the projects). Only about 13 percent of annual CIP, or $9 million, is not designated for specific purposes. Most of that is used to leverage federal funds using only a 20 percent local match, so to give up those dollars means we will lose four times that amount in leveraged funds for important maintenance and construction. However, we did review the list and are increasing the transfer to the General Fund by $1 million (12 percent of the undesignated funds) to help close the budget gap.

3. The city does not have a TABOR excess revenue fund. It does have a 3 percent TABOR-required emergency reserve fund with a cash balance of approximately $18 million. It cannot be used to offset economic conditions, revenue shortfalls, or salary and benefit increases.

4. The 11.51 percent is the percent of estimated expenditures, which on the balance sheet was $855,860,000; 1.51 percent is $12,920,000. Ten percent is the minimum fund balance we can maintain. The city has already spent down its fund balance which was 16.82 percent at the end of 2008. We will not support going to 10 percent in 2010 as we expect the recovery to last into 2011. In the downturn in the early 2000s, we had four years of flat revenues. We are currently only in the second year of declining revenues and these declines are much more significant than that period of time.

5. We are reviewing many possible revenue and/or fee increases as part of the solution to the $120 million gap, but have not made final decisions. Mayor Hickenlooper has said he
believes that charging for trash collection is something that should be put to a vote. Any tax increases (including the Occupational Privilege Tax) would require a vote of the citizens of Denver.

Additional information:

You mentioned staffing levels and a concern they have not grown enough to keep up with the population growth. On page 114 of the published 1970 Budget, the appropriated
(budgeted) uniform staffing level is 1200. In 2009, the budgeted uniform staffing level is 1446 (page 278 of the published 2009 Budget Book). This represents a 20.5 percent growth in uniform staffing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the 1970 Denver County population was 512,691.The Colorado Division of Local Government, State Demography Office estimated the 2009 Denver County population to be 615,109, for a 19 percent 9% growth over the 1970 population. From 1970 to 2009, the uniform staffing growth tracks with the population growth.

You also asked about the contract with Jefferson County to patrol the mountain parks. The $2.4 million expenditure contract is the cumulative contract amount since its inception in 1994. In 2009, the budgeted contract amount is only $180,749.

You asked about staffing levels in the Manager of Safety's office. That office is also being asked for significant budget reductions, and we are currently reviewing their proposals to meet the new/lower budget targets for 2010.

We need savings in all city offices to meet this budget challenge.

You asked about fleet sales. There is a fleet utilization committee meeting now to review the current policies and seek additional efficiencies including disposal of surplus equipment. The draft budget will include over $12 million in temporary and permanent fleet savings to help close the budget gap.

You asked if drug seizure funds could be used for operations instead of for drug education/treatment. These funds are governed by state law which we do not control.

You asked about city funding for the homelessness initiative. Other than the 2009 council-initiated supplemental from our contingency for DHS that included $350,000 for homelessness contracts, no other GF dollars are going to Road Home in 2009.

You asked about flower planting as a possible savings. The Parks and Recreation Department has submitted significant budget reductions which are under review right now.

You asked about the 1 percent funding requirement for public art. That is a city ordinance which could be reviewed, but would do little to help in the current budget, because any savings would go back to construction projects (not to the General Fund).

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