Recession-made fiscal discipline has come to Grand Junction, where city leaders are admitting that they will have to cut services and staff because sales taxes have fallen off a cliff. The city had already taken steps to shave $7.5 million off its budget but now it’s canceling programs such as its popular special large-trash Spring Clean-Up and shifting workers to fill gaps in fire and police departments.
The Grand Junction Sentinel has the story, which is drawing Grand Junction-style commenters, who are responding to the news by mocking the city government as bloated and as a haven for privileged fat cats.
City Manager Laurie Kadrich told City Council members Wednesday night that annual programs such as Spring Clean-up and chip-seal road maintenance may be suspended for a year to help save money. Financial Operations Manager Jodi Romero told The Daily Sentinel on Thursday that residents may see shorter business hours in some city departments, and other service reductions are possible.
The revenue shortfall is expected to continue next year. City officials predict severance and mineral leasing revenues will be only 20 percent of this year’s levels, due to reduced receipts and changes in the state budget and the revenue-allocation formula. Fees from local construction and development activity, meanwhile, have dropped to 2002 levels.
A hiring freeze instituted in the first quarter of the year has left the city 25 employees short of the 701 full-time workers departments originally were authorized to employ. The city has tried to fill the vacancies created by resignations and retirements by shifting employees internally. Most of the transferred employees have moved into the police and fire departments, where city leaders figure they can least afford to have employee shortages.
The recession and the TABOR-squeezed state budget seem to be shaping the kind of government that the state’s “fiscal conservative” speech-givers celebrate on the stump, on the floor of the capitol and on their campaign websites.
Gov. Ritter is taking major political heat for signing FASTER, an attempt to raise revenue for the state and meet challenges like the ones Grand Junction is facing today. Ritter also spent political capital this legislative session in backing the repeal of the Arveschoug-Bird provision, which had long tied legislators’ hands in their attempts to fund programs across the state. Ritter’s challenger, Sen. Josh Penry, railed against FASTER and led the GOP filibuster against the Arveschoug-Bird repeal. He also said that, if he were governor this year, he would have sent federal stimulus money back to Washington.
Note: We know Sen. Josh Penry lives in Fruita and that he is not the manager of Grand Junction or its budget director. But in Colorado political culture, isn’t it true that he is, in effect, the “mayor” of GJ?