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Happy Tuesday night, #Boulder. It's city council again. I know, it happens every week!

Tonight is just a study session, which are usually no big deal. But some hot topics tonight, including long-term budget needs and a muni update. Also: Fire dept. master plan.
I personally was excited for the budget talks but the packet info was sadly lacking in detail, mostly going over the budget cycle for the year.

As we know, there are millions in unfunded needs in the city. boulderbeat.news/2019/04/11/cit…
Among those is the fire dept, which needs an extra $200,000 per year just to maintain its $22.99M budget. It needs $9.3M extra over the next five years to relocate two old fire stations and *maybe* incorporate more EMS into the dept.

We'll be discussing that more tonight.
Lastly, on the muni update, here's the gist: The go/no-go vote won't happen until at least 2021, and the city might run out of money to keep things going before then.

More to come later. I was working on a story but didn't have time to finish. This job keeps me so busy!
But Sam at the Camera did a good story on spending so far and the longer timeline, which we've known for months was a possibility. This recent announcement just makes it official: 2020 is not happening. dailycamera.com/2019/12/06/bou…
I will have a story this week, tho. Possibly tonight, depending on how motivated I am.
We've gotten started but I"m having trouble hearing bc they're waxing/working on the floors downstairs. I'll try to keep up.
If any council members are reading this, can you please all speak up? Thx.
City Manager Jane Brautigam going over how we got here. I'm really struggling to hear, so my tweets will probably be few and far between.
Going over the open space , library and transportation master plans OK'd in the last 15 months. When we see those, she says, the future looks bright and we want to fund everything in them. But "we don't have the money to do that. We need to start prioritizing what we do."
"There's some real needs out there," Kady Doelling, chief budget officer, says, going over some: police, fire, parks and rec, HR, facilities. That's in addition to library, transportation, affordable housing.

"Without any other identified funding sources" we'll have reductions.
Council will be looking at what the plan is for a recession. also will discuss how much we want to (or not) keep relying on sales tax. From the fire master plan document, here's a breakdown of the General Fund. Not how much we rely on sales tax.
Boulder will also begin to apply at a racial equity lens to the budget, but not before 2022.

We want to get it right, Doelling says, and not rush it.
Now talking food tax: $9-$12M annually is what's brought in from taxing grocery store sales.

A bit Dif from the city's revenue reports and what I reported; I'll follow up and find out why. boulderbeat.news/2019/11/30/sho…
Doelling says the city needs to do more digging to find out how much exactly it brings in. Apparently it's more complicated than just looking at the receipts for sales tax revenue and the category for grocery store food sales.
Cheryl Patelli, chief financial officer, talking about how sales tax is tied to some bonds the city has issued. Committed to those through 2038. That could affect Boulder's bond rating, if we futz with sales tax revenue.
Patelli: "When we look at our sales tax issue, food is one of those items you need no matter what the economy is like." So we've always relied on it a bit more in our budgets bc it's so stable.
Staff is recommending forming a city council budget subcommittee. Goodie, another one!
With a two-year workplan!
Friend asks about the food tax and bonds.
Patelli: Open space bonds mature in 2034
Friend: The rebate program seems pretty narrow.
Brautigam: We're going to be talking about that rebate program next week. You can propose policy changes then.
Wallach asks about the total amount of unfunded priorities. It's $375M, per staff in April. Those are just needs over $1M, btw. The fire station relocations alone will cost $60M, Doelling says.

Doelling: $300M+ "It's not overstated, in my opinion."
"Without additional revenue source, there will not be adequate resources" for many of the city's capital needs, in particular, Doelling says.
Community, Culture, Safety Tax expires in 2021. Part of that $$ going to fire station 3 relocation.
Yates: That could be re-upped by voters, right?
Doelling: Yes, we're looking at expiring taxes, new taxes, etc. Everything we can to find revenue we need.
We're chatting a bit about equity and budgets. Again, having trouble hearing and following. Apologies! But I promise I'm paying attention.
Here's the most useful thing I got from the packet on this: (it's what we're talking about now, I think)
Brautigam: We'd like council to decide in April if they're going to support the library district for not. Study session on that March 17.

That will leave time for the district to go to the ballots.
Funding of the districts will have to be OK'd by voters, though one *might* be able to be formed without voter approval. But since it has to go to them to pay for anyway, a ballot initiative is likely.
Yates summarizing something I missed earlier: The city is going to change the way it presents master plans, so that when the funding for them is presented, it is paired with funding for existing master plans council has already OK'd.
That way, council will see a more holistic view of spending rather than just focusing on the next "shiny object," as Yates said.

Doelling confirms that is the intent of the new approach.
Brockett: I want to be able to get deeper into the budget, so we're looking at spending, goals and outcomes of Program X in Department Y, for example. When we do annual budgets, we don't get to that level of detail.
I agree. I'm kinda shocked by how quickly the budget process goes and with such little finessing. (and public participation)

But there would probably be more if I was doing better coverage. So that's at least 50% on me.
Swetlik: I would like to see in master plans if the increased funding is forever, or if it has a hard stop date... What's the timeline? Is it continuous or not?
Young: I think the council budget subcommittee will be "key" bc "we never really get to see the budget until it's out there."
Wallach: Master plan visions might have things that will never be fulfilled. "Reigning that in a bit" may be a good idea so the community doesn't see a "laundry list of things that will never be fulfilled."
Weaver: It took 20 yrs to get the NoBo Library done. If that hadn't been in the master plan, it never would have gotten done. "Sometimes ambitious goals take a long time to mature and have the community have the will to fund them."
Young: Maybe there should be levels of criteria baked into master plans, one for city/staff and another for community, so we know what the priorities are.
Weaver: South Boulder Creek flood work is a good example of that. It's been talked about for 20 yrs, and now is the time the $$ has been set aside for that.
Yates: "I like the idea of bringing context to master plans and reminding us what else is out there."
Also said sexy projects.
*immediately creates a to-do list of sexy projects*
Weaver: "The equity lens piece is very interesting... to figure out how to apply it to the budget side. I understand how it gets applied to services. How it's going to get applied to where $ are allocated is a more difficult problem to address."
Typically, its dept vs. dept for a limited amount of $$. Shifting that to equity will be interesting to see, he says. Anticipating learning how other cities do that.
Brockett: It's also about who is being paid to do programs and services, not just where the $$ goes.
That's something the city will start researching as it develops its "best practice" policies.
Thought 2022 budget will be the first to get an equity lens, a pilot project or two will be incorporated into the 2021 budget, the process for which starts in the spring of 2020.
Brautigam: I'd like to see 2 council members work with staff RE: budget practices and equity, and then report back later this year. They'll help inform the council budget subcommittee, which will then "take over" and help with the budget process.
So many committees!
OK, enough joking around. This is serious business.
Honestly, I'm glad the budget is getting more attention. I know just enough to know I don't know enough to be an effective journalist around this, but I also know enough to know more people should be paying attention.
This is why we need more journalists!
Yates bringing up the affordable housing and/or transportation tax Boulder County wants to put on the ballot in 2020.
County is polling for those now.
Yates: I think this council is going to have in the March/April timeframe, we'll have some visibility about how those things polled. I think that's going to instruct a lot of the things we're doing with source of funding, bc housing and transportation are two of our biggest needs
That was a direct quote, but I ran out of characters for the " "
Weaver: "You can make a pretty logical linkage between housing and transportation"

That's RE: The county taxes for housing and transportation. Likely to be a combo the county is polling for.
Chris Hagelin, transportation dept, confirming that, says polling will start in Feb. County and city will also be looking at other revenue, such as car registration fees, etc.
Or a transportation fee that goes on utility bills.
We discussed these back in May, but none of them were super appealing to Boulder. At least not appealing enough to go ahead with in 2019.
Other fees discussed at that time: Curbside management fee and congestion pricing.
These were discussed in the context of climate and transportation goals.

State legislators are looking at gas fees or fees on transportation co like Uber and Lyft and some road user fees.
Good news from Hagelin: $30M from CDOT will help develop bus rapid transit on Highway 119. $10M more may come from another CDOT funding source, plus a $5M grant for design from BoCo. RTD has pledged $30M for Diagonal work that might be available as well.
It's an over $200M project, Hagelin says. "But we're now starting to see some of that money coming in."
Brockett: "Everybody's excited to go forward." (He was at a meeting yesterday about it.)
Young: How can Boulder work with the county on that tax polling?
Hagelin: We could separate out city residents from the results. We'll make sure that's at a statistically significant level.
Friend: When we're looking at congestion pricing, road user fees, is that county level or city level?
Hagelin: It's both.
County working group is looking at regional corridors, Hagelin says.

Friend: If it's the city, we need to be using the equity lens.
Weaver, going on a bit about equity and city vs. county needs and efforts. All the things we're talking about are regional problems and solutions.

"Something to keep in mind when we're doing budget stuff is that we're not isolated from the whole word in every way."
That's the end of the budget discussion, I believe. I think we're moving onto fire stuff next. I think I'll keep the same thread since the fire dept has several million $$ in needs upcoming.
Fire dept 2020 operating budget: $22.99 million
+95% funded by the general fund
Quick snapshot of the dept:
Fire chief Mike Calderazzo: The emergency that doesn't happen is better than the one that does. The $$ we spend on prevention is paid back 9-10X in emergencies that don't happen.
"I know our name is Boulder Fire. But what we do is EMS."

(Emergency medical services)
73.9% of calls fire dept responded to in 2017 were EMS related
23% were fire related
OK the staff presentation says 81% but the packet said 73.9% so...?
Either way, it's a lot of EMS.
Here's a look at what they did in 2017:
Fire dept gets 13% of general fund
Last master plan for the fire dept was 2012
Calderazzo is moving *so* fast through this presentation.
92% of community members, in public feedback, support fire dept taking over more EMS services that the city now contracts out.

You'll remember this from council discussion in 2018: dailycamera.com/2018/08/28/wit…
In case you don't want to / can't read that, here's a "fun" tidbit: Boulder subsidizes the wages of EMTs bc the co that employs them, AMR, refuses to pay a living wage. $535,000 in 2018.
Back to present day: Calderazzo going over the goals of the master plan. Fire dept plans to start measuring all sorts of new things.
By incorporating more advanced EMS, Boulder hopes to improve the cardiac survival rate from the national average of 8% to 12% by 2025 (success measure is patients being discharged from hospital with no brain damage)
Boulder doesn't know the local survival rate today; they just know they want to get better.
Taking over EMS will also reduce response time, staff says. Goal is avg of 8 min, 6 sec by 2022. Today, it's 10 min, 46 sec
"Our stations need a lot of work," Calderazzo says. Facilities improvement is one of the goals.
So is upping the number of female firefighters. Many communities have 49-51% women. Boulder: 7 of 99 firefighters are women.
Now Calderazzo is addressing the EMS question specifically. By the city charter, Boulder fire is required to provide that. But they do some themselves and contract some out.
"When ppl see ambulances, they think that's got a dr or nurse or EMT on board. Not always. Ambulance and level of care that's provided are two different things."
Basic EMT (which every fire station is at) can basically transport you to the hospital and do minimal interventions: nothing invasive and no meds.
Advanced Life Support (ALS) is can do those things plus cardiac resuscitation.

Bc fire dept contracts that out, both the fire dept (basic EMT) and the ALS provider (contractor) respond to nearly every call. So lots of doubling up on resources.
When it comes to cardiac events, response time matters: Every minute that passes without treatment during a cardiac arrest reduces the chances of survivability by 7-10%.
I was actually shocked to see how low the national survival rate is for cardiac events. But I guess the heart is kinda important to, you know, living.
It takes ALS 10 min to respond to scene today, on average.
For $1.14M in capital costs and $1.78M per year extra, 32 existing staff can be trained in ALS and reduce response time to 6 min. A couple light-response vehicles (SUV, truck, whatever) would help in that.
ALS providers don't need to be in ambulances, bc they're providing immediate care on-site. The light-response vehicles wouldn't transport patient to hospital, but they would get providers there quicker and the ambulance would follow.
The ambulance services would still be contracted out, Calderazzo says.
"They'd still have 2-3 buses around... they would augment our 2 light response vehicles."

13 total response vehicles in the city under that scenario.
With $5.45M extra annually and $1.68M in capital funding, Boulder would by 3 ambulances and do transport as well.
Calderazzo says Boulder is now subsidizing EMT wages to the tune of $800K a year.
Brockett: If we're now providing our own transport, wouldn't we eliminate that cost?
Calderazzo: Yes.
But we decided to put out the "raw" costs first. Boulder could recover $2-$3M per year in revenue it's paying AMR now, per consultant report, Calderazzo says.
It's tricky to suss that out bc everything to do with health care and payment is just ridiculous.
Brautigam: We have to be really careful about counting our chickens b4 they hatch when it comes to collecting. In another city, I learned that collections are pretty low. We just shouldn't rely on collecting even 60%
Calderazzo: That's why we went with raw numbers. But we do know there is some recoverable costs.
If the consultant is right (and Brautigam has in the past cast doubt on reports and numbers returned) the cost would be closer to $3-$4M extra per year.
OK now we're talking station relocations. They are *insanely* expensive. Fire station No. 2 and 4 will cost $60M, the city estimates.
Calderazzo: These stations were all built 50-60 years ago when it was all male teams and all they did were structure fires. We do a lot more today.
Maybe $60M was for all three station relocations: No. 2, 3 (underway now) and 4. From my previous reporting, I see $40M planned for 2 and 4.
Either way, many, many millions for those.
But I get that the Dif between $40M and $60M is substantial so apologies; I'll get the specifics before I write the story.
Wallach: We need to move those? We can't renovate?
Calderazzo: The sites don't work due to setbacks, height limit. We could look at maybe purchasing properties next to them, but existing footprints don't work.
Wallach: If we buy a new site, I assume we'd sell off the old ones?
Calderazzo: Yes, or whatever repurposing council wants.
Friend: Is there any aspect of this we can run through the racial equity lens? Before deciding?
Brautigam: We haven't actually approved that tool....
But maybe something could be ID'd, staff says.
Back to fire station relocation: "There are a lot of assumptions on how much we think we'll spend on these two stations," Calderazzo says. "We tried to use worst case scenarios."
"We tried up with the most conservative numbers we could come up with."
"We probably, I think safely, overestimated."
Young: What was the original estimate for Station No. 3 and what did we end up with?
Calderazzo: "$9M, and we just spent that for the land. It definitely blew the budget, trying to get the land itself, which is why we went really high on these."
Friend: Can we get an estimate on how much revenue we might recapture for taking over ALS? So we have a realistic number?
Calderazzo: We have those numbers, how much AMR bills and what the consultant says we might get.
"The consultant's estimate was more conservative than what AMR is collecting today," Calderazzo says.
Weaver: What do our neighboring communities have for fire and emergency medial services?
Calderazzo: Most of them are doing what we're calling the vision version of this plan, but I don't know what their outcomes are or anything.
Weaver: I think most ppl in this community would believe they're getting firefighter paramedics. Most ppl don't know what basic EMTs are; they can do CPR and airway interventions but not much else. I think it would be helpful to compare to peer communities.
"So we have the ability to say, is our level of service what the community expects? And with an equity lens, can we say regardless of where you are, are we serving" all communities the same?
"Every dept we come in contact with has a higher level of care than Boulder does," unidentified fire dept person says. (I'll get his name at some point).
Swetlik: You would take half of full funding, right? It's not like you'd turn town having one new light-response vehicle or...
Calderazzo: Absolutely. "It isn't an overnight, put everything in service. It's def a gradual plan that at the very least takes a 3-5 year training up."
Brockett: "Personally I'd like to see a continued pursuit" of taking over ALS. "I think there are fewer" higher priorities for a government "than to help ppl in medical crisis get the best care they can as quickly as they can."
Yates: "I would like to know the numbers, bc they are going to matter, but I fully support moving forward with this."
Wallach: You described new fire stations as including community spaces. Everyone would like to see that, but what's the material impact on the cost?
Thank you! I also was like, community space? Why?
But maybe idk why. I'll find out in my interview Thursday.
Calderazzo: If we have 1,000 sq ft of community space in every station.. multiply by cost estimates... "It's not insignificant."

It's something for the community to decide, he says. "If it becomes cost prohibitive, that's the kind of thing maybe we don't need."
Those parts of the station are basically middle of the road in terms of how much they cost; less than living quarters but more than other parts of the station.

But those spaces can also be used to train firefighters, so it's a duplicate use.
Brockett: If there's a great multi-use function, great. But if it's more of a standalone... the SoBo one is v close to a library. So keep that in mind.
Weaver: I spent 15 yrs on the Sugarloaf fire dept. The fire service is about continuous improvement, both about facilities, apparatus and training.
Sorry, zoned out there for a min.

Weaver: "I think this is what our residents do expect." We should talk to them and ask if they'd be willing to pay more in sales tax to get an upgraded service.
Young: I agree this is important. But as far as asking ppl if they'd be willing to pay more, "I think the correct question is asking ppl if they'd be willing to accept reductions in services. There's only so much sales tax you can collect b4 ppl start going elsewhere."
"We're already doing what we've always done, which is looking at this outside the context of all the other needs ... how much money is available. It's not an endless amount."
"The correct question is what reductions are you willing to take."
Weaver: "I don't disagree with that. You can phrase the q a bunch of Dif ways. The point is, what's important to you ... and is it worth the increase or cut."
OK, that wraps these two discussions. Muni up next! @threadreaderapp, please unroll. Thanks!
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