Next up: Budget!

Here's the staff presentation…
And a couple stories that might help.…
Some things we'll be touching on tonight: the ~$6M facility replacement at the golf course, consultant spending, Housing and Human Services spending, arts funding, and how/why our budget outlook has gotten worse recently
I haven't looked at the public speaker list yet, but ya'll BETTER not disappoint me this year. There's only ever, like, 4 speakers for this hearing and it's SO IMPORTANT! And I spent so much time reporting on this for you, to make it accessible.
If you don't show up again this year, I will protest. And you will not like it.
Total 2021 proposed budget: $341.2 M
80% is operating; 20% is capital
Of the operating budget, $271.8 million, 44% is the general fund (discretionary) and 56% is dedicated funds (open space, parks, transportation, etc.)
Of the capital budget, $69.4 million, 14% is discretionary (gov't capital fund, previously in the general fund) and 86% is dedicated funds.
That shows how hard it is to move $$ around for capital projects, Cheryl Pattelli, CFO, says. Once it's earmarked for something, that's it. There's little flexibility.

This will become important later when we talk about the golf course.
One other thing we're addressing: General Fund reserves. The city has a goal of 20% reserves, which it was going to reach in 2021. But then... COVID.

Now they're planning for ~17.5%
They never want to go below 15% bc Boulder is so susceptible to fire and flood, which are expensive for cities.
"It's very important for our city to have a higher reserve level than that," Pattelli says.
Capital Improvement (spending on real assets like property, facilities, etc.)
2021-2026 CIP: $668M (95% is enhancement to existing assets)
2021 CIP proposed spending: $73.5M
I have a whole list of these by dept which I should probably publish at some point. But instead do you want some fun facts about Boulder's capital assets?
Let's just say you said yes.
The city owns and maintains:
385 buildings and structures (including 3 rec centers, 5 library facilities, 8 fire stations, and 5 parking structures)
1,800 acres of parkland
Over 46,000 acres of Open Space & Mountain Parks
305 centerline miles of streets
159 centerline miles of bike facilities
80 underpasses
2 water treatment facilities
1 wastewater treatment facility
11 dams
Over 800 miles of water and wastewater piping.
Told you it would be fun.
Moving on to housing and human services. This budget is always tricky, because so much of the dept funding is supplemental, meaning it gets added in later in the year (or the following year)
2021 HHS Budget: $19.85M, including $8.14M from the general fund

vs. 2020: $18.89M, including $7.79M from the GF
We're already moving on to the golf course project, so see slide 21 for more HHS info
This is a replacement of the restrooms, dining that were destroyed in the 2013 flood. They've been using temporary facilities that are at the end of their life, according to staff.
$6.49 million project. All $$ is coming from dedicated Parks & Recs funds.

65% Permanent Parks Fund
20% 0.25 Cent Sales Tax Fund
15% Capital Development Fund
"Those funds could not be reprioritized elsewhere," Brautigam says.
I should note that's within the projected budget laid out when council OK'd this project in 2014: $2.9-$6.75M

See that IP here…
IP = Information Packet
*Note to self: Add that to Gov't 101 glossary*
Going quickly. We're on arts funding now. It's unfortunate we had to cut that this year, Brautigam said, but we had to, to balance the budget.
Here's a 6-yr history of Arts funding in Boulder:
2015 and before: $225,000
2016: $450,000
2017: $675,000
2018: $675,000
2019: $925,000
2020: $925,000
2021 (proposed): $769,750
So down a bit from the last two years but still WAY up from 2015-2016
Next: Library. Losing quite a bit of their budget this year. ~16%

Two branches will stay closed all year, NoBo corner library and George Reynolds. Carnegie will also be by appointment only.
At 50% capacity, for Carnegie appointments.
Two optional budget for council to approve:
Option 1:
- Total General Fund appropriation of $146,377,662
- Continue to hold $950,692 in emergency reserves, with this contribution to reserves, estimate reserves at ~ 17.4%
- Possible supplemental appropriation later
Option 2:
- Total General Fund appropriation of $147,328,354
- Appropriate $950,692 for other uses as agreed by Council and/or to the City Manager Contingency Fund
- This reduces the contribution to reserves - reserve estimate decreases to ~ 16.6%
Wow, such choice.
Option 2 "would allow you to quickly say to the city manager" you need more $$ for COVID, etc. and you can quickly spend it, rather than appropriating it (a more formal process)
Brockett: Our reserves would still be higher than they are today, right? We're still adding $$?
Brautigam: Yes. We're at 15% this year. This would put us at 16.6%
We were at 19.5% but ... COVID
Brockett: The $$ for the golf course, those are for capital improvements at parks. So we could use that for other improvements?
Brautigam: Yes, but we couldn't spend the $$ in 2021 bc we don't have other projects that are ready for construction that year.
Brockett: There are projects that could start construction in late 2021, right?
Brautigam: That's correct.
Wallach touching on something I forgot: $10.3M planned in consultant spending for 2021. How does that compare to 2020? he asks.
Brautigam doesn't know, so Wallach asks another q.
$4.8M is Miscellaneous. That seems like quite a lot. I'd like some detail.
Also confused about Facilities & Fleet spending. That is a new dept this year. Various places in the budget show different reductions. That's due to one-time capital expenses, Ken Baird says.
That trips me up a lot as well in comparing dept spending from year to year. For instance, the NoBo library one-time spend last year made it look like that budget was being more than halved.
I'll get the hang of this yet. It's only been three budget cycles. Maybe year 5.
You want another fun fact?
Maybe I should do this as a poll. Guess how many vehicles the city of Boulder owns and maintains?
I realize that's not a poll and I'm not going to wait for you to answer, because you'll be wrong. 969.
Back to Wallach: landlords are asking that the city's increase of the rental license fee be phased in. Reminder: The cost of that license was not covering the city's cost to administer the program, so it was essentially a subsidy.
But raising it this year when No Eviction Without Representation is on the ballot, another substantial increase to rental units, is a big jump.
Wallach asking if it could be phased in. Brautigam/staff answering that the license fee is paid every 4 years, so it won't be going up next year for every landlord; just the ones whose rental licenses are expiring.
Friend asking about the $100K reduction in homeless spending, which I wrote about. That's due to not having a lease (they consolidated facilities) and reduction in day services (cheaper contract with a provider).…
Actual spending was reduced by $300K but only $100K was operating. Much of the $$ the city is spending is reimbursable by the feds. Bc COVID
Young asked a q but I missed what it was about. Sugar sweetened beverage tax?
Maybe not, but here's that info. Reminder, all that $$ goes into the Health Equity Fund, which gets doled out in grants.

Proposed 2021 grants: $3.72M (-$610K or 22% reduction)
That's a sales tax, so it's likely down like all the others. I'm sorry I don't have those numbers in front of me RN. And apologies to the person who emailed me about this that I haven't responded to!
Swetlik talking about the rental license fee, which is per property, kinda (if there is common ownership). So a 10-unit building all owned by the same entity gets one rental license for that building, pays one fee.
That's not equitable, Swetlik says. If you rent out 1 unit or 100 units, you pay the same.
I did not think that was the case with rental licenses, but I could be wrong. And apparently am.
One other thing I should mention: Boulder cut $$ for police officers in schools, beyond the original reductions, after feedback from council.
Swetlik talking about how hard it is to get council priorities in the budget, bc it happens for the next year before that year's work-planning retreat.
Brautigam: It takes 6 months to do a budget. And by our own laws, we have to approve a budget by Dec. 1
But yes, a frequent criticism from council members. And yet they hardly push back on the proposed plan at all, prob bc so much work has already gone into it. They just give it more or less a rubber stamp and move on.
These are things I will look at in my Budget 101 piece(s)
Young asked about arts spending, which she emailed on earlier today.
Emailed about?
She sent an email. Ya'll get what I'm saying.
Young: Does the $$ that's been allocated cover all the operating grants?
Matt Chansky, arts head: Yes.
OMG 30 speakers for the public hearing! You did NOT disappoint me, #Boulder. You deserve me after all.…
Seriously, idk that I can take credit for this, but I'm gonna. My years of pleading and reporting have paid off.
Melissa Fathman from the Dairy Arts Center: We're currently facing an 85% reduction in revenue. Well over $1M.
27 employees "indefinitely" furloughed, Fathaman says.
Sorry, Fathman.
She's asking for "a little less severe" cut to arts funding than the 17% planned reduction.
Daniel Katz throws in a 'fuck' as in "You have the resources to fix this and you don't give a fuck." That's RE: police spending being the single biggest spend in the budget (25% of the general fund; 14% of operating budget) and cuts to housing, homelessness spending
Sorry, spaced out for a moment. The speakers are sounding kinda fuzzy but I heard: Spend more on housing/homelessness and Spend more on the arts.
Now, from Jeff Martinez, spend more on firefighting/EMS
Don't allow our frontline engines to be shut down with budget cuts, he says.

That dept spending reduced by ~8% in 2021, vs. 2020: Fire-rescue: $21,165,127 (2020: $22,988,881)
Riley Mancuso: "This is exactly the wrong time to cut library spending."
Jan Burton talking about the small arts budget. 0.2% of overall city spending. Other recreational areas (like parks) get much more.

Open space and parks&rec together are 22% of city spending. (But they have dedicated funds)
Paul Culnan speaks to the budget implications of the Xcel settlement, which draws a "reminder" from Yates that this is a budget public hearing.
Kathleen McCormick also asking for more arts spending.
And another: Mark Villarreal
So is Leah Brenner Clack, who runs Boulder's mural festival.

All the arts speakers have such good info!
Omg the cursing tonight is next level. Ya'll FEISTY.
Amanda Berg Wilson, an artist, asking for more arts funding.
Someone on the Zoom: We can hear you typing.
Elizabeth McGuire, also speaking for the arts.
Everyone is speaking so beautifully but I'm losing steam. It's already almost 11 here.
McGuire: Boulder's budget is "a stinging indicator of what value arts has in our community."
Jeremy Kapell is from some Boulder arts org. BMEA? He's referencing breach of contracts.
Devin Patrick Hughes, of Boulder Symphony. He conducted a virtual rehearsal tonight.
Apparently Tila Duhaime from TAB spoke tonight. Totally missed the. Friend has a q about her testimony RE: cuts to Transportation Demand Management.
Natalie Stiffler: A lot of that is around employee commuting, providing alternatives to single occupancy vehicles. We thought there might be less demand bc of teleworking.
Friend also asking about the BMEA, which is the Boulder Municipal Employees Association, or the union for the city employees.
Brautigam: We have a contract with the police union that lasts through (I missed when, but def 2021, which is why they are the only ones who get a raise)

Fire union contract ends in 2020; they weren't able to negotiate something for 2021
Ditto for BMEA: contract ends in 2020 and they did not meet to negotiate.
Reminder: No merit raises in 2021 for city employees (except police union)
"We'll be doing a lot of sales tax negotiations next year," Brautigam says. We're hopeful we'll have merit raises for 2022.
Brautigam: About 400 members of BMEA. Most frontline workers. Street maintenance, utility maintenance, parks ops, some library workers.
Friend asked about a standalone winter shelter.
Firnhaber: If we kept 30th Street facility open for another year, it would be $410,000 on top of our current budget.
Young has a sassy reply to one of the speakers (who I must have muted for cursing) about how un-fancy the retreats are.

Can concur.
I mean, they're called retreats but they're really just longer meetings.
Some arts qs from Young. Really struggling to focus.
Chasansky: (Apologies for butchering the spelling of your name earlier) We try to fund professional development grants for artists.

And then some other stuff, in response to what the priorities for grants were.
Brockett: The BMEA alleges that in the absence of a new contract being negotiated, they are still guaranteed an increase for 2021.
Brautigam: There is no guarantee. There is no contract. That ended in 2020. Idk why they rely on that.
Swetlik asking about police and fire, but I missed what. I'm really sorry. I might actually fall asleep during a meeting for the first time ever.
Brautigam: We provide fire services to CU, but not police. That's why we'd like to get some $$ from the university for fire.
Brockett wants to put a little less $$ into general fund reserves and have some contingency money set aside. That's Option 2 from earlier.
Swetlik: I think every dollar we spend now is one we'll save later, whether it's keeping artists in town or whatever. This is the worst economic crisis of the decade, so far.

Spoken like a millennial.
Wallach wants to put it into reserves. "We can always create a bag of goodies. It's very easy to spend; it's much more difficult to show restraint."
Young agrees with Wallach: We don't know what crisis lurks around the corner.
Friend: "This seems like a moment in time we want to free up more funds."
Nagle: I'd prefer to put all the $$ in reserves but I can compromise and go with Wallach's plan to put some in reserves and hold some back.

Joseph on that page, too.
Yates as well. So that's a majority.
Brautigam: It works, bc you're the council and you rep the community. But I don't know how we pass an ordinance tonight when the numbers have changed.
They do an amendment on first reading, as Carr explains.

How does she not know that? She's been here for 12 years. This is not the first time they've made budget adjustments, is it?
Swetlik: "I don't want to re-litigate, as we have a rule against that." But wants to take $$ from what will be put in reserves and put it into housing and human services. $100K, at minimum.
"I think it could be best utilized in our homelessness program or preventative eviction" measures, he suggests.
Joseph: We mentioned it's about $560,000. My question is, for Firnhaber, maybe we should ask how much $$ the dept needs, where it would best be spent?
Firnhaber: Evictions is sort of an unknown for us at this point. We put some $$ in that this year. "The challenge is, we don't know what the need is."
"We're trying to set our budget up in a way we have some additional flexibility, but quite frankly we don't know if it's enough. We just don't have enough information," Firnhaber says.
Firnhaber: "There's certainly other opportunities to support the community."
Brockett: One possibility I see is dedicating additional $$ to human services fund grants. Those have a 17% reduction, which is a substantial cut, and they go to nonprofits that do extraordinary work in the community.
Swetlik is on board with this, as is Friend. She's on the state eviction prevention Taskforce. We don't know what help we might get from the state, so maybe we don't want to restrict funds as much.
Firnhaber: The human services funds grants go to organizations like EFAA, which does rental assistance, and groups that aid the unhoused.
We're talking THIS MUCH about $100K in funding, which is chump change in the whole of the Boulder budget.
Forgot that Friend asked that some of the $$ go to boosting day services for the unhoused this winter. Joseph on board with that.
Young to Carr: You mentioned it could remain in reserves and then to an adjustment to base later. We don't know how much $$ could come from a second COVID relief bill from the feds. Maybe that $$ could be used for what we're proposing to spend on now.
Wallach: I support putting $$ into human services grants. I suspect we'll have more $$ for rental assistance and eviction prevention after this election (referencing No Eviction Without Representation)
But he would go higher: $150,000 or $200,000 to housing and human services
Joseph wants to put it specifically toward day services. I don't see that happening.
Brockett to Young: What we might get from the feds is so unknown. And we will almost certainly have human services needs.
You mean $200,000 won't solve the deep economic inequalities and associated issues in our community?
Moving on to the golf course: Brockett wants to repurpose the $$ for building out neighborhood parks in underserved areas.
It's been a long thread, so reminder that this is a $6.5M project
Yates: These are dedicated parks capital improvement funds.
Wallach: "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I've kind of come around on the golf course."
Wallach: The funds are dedicated, and we don't have anything shovel-ready
Ali Rhodes, parks and rec director: This has been on our project list since 2014.

"As far as what else could happen" there are two parks we are planning to fund, on different timelines.
Violet Ave park is timed for 2023 with the NoBo library, so there aren't redundancies, and utilities construction, to minimize impacts

Eaton (in Gunbarrel) is planned for 2024 bc, even tho there aren't public parks, there is a lot of green space provided by HOAs.
Rhodes: "While we are eager to build those parks, we do think both those areas are served by playground and park land."
Young asks what would happen if we wait on the golf course, cost-wise.
Rhodes: We've factored in 10% escalation for construction, so $1M. And we have to replace the temporary restroom trailer.
"Golf is faring very well in the pandemic," she says.

Go figure, a leisure activity that (generally) well-off people partake in is on the upswing? Shocked, I tell you.
Friend, Joseph, Swetlik all on board with spending on the golf course this year.

"It's either we fix it now or allow the costs to go up," Joseph says.
Nagle, too.
Now on to arts. Swetlik the first to suggest adding some $$ back in. Joseph proposes $150,000
Create Boulder, an arts advocacy organization, has pledged to raise $50,000 from the community as matching funds if the city adds $100,000 back in.

Young makes a proposal but I didn't follow it.
Young: I understand there are many advocates for the arts. But "I feel pretty strongly" that I don't want to give more than half of the $75,000 with Create Boulder matching us. "All of us have to do our bit to sacrifice something."
Friend: Do we normally account for matching grants in our budgeting?
Brautigam: Not typically, but we have done it before.
Friend: I'm not totally comfortable budgeting off a matching grant bc that is sort of pay-to-play
"I'm not totally comfortable planning around it. I think we should just fund what the arts needs," Friend says.
Brockett points out that we've done matching funding around the arts before, particularly.
Yates: 3% of ppl living in the city of Boulder work in the arts. The arts provides $70M of economic impact, $4.6M of money for the city and state.

"This is not a nice-to-have. This is a gotta have for a lot of people, and will bring dividends back to us."
Swetlik: I'm v uncomfortable making decisions about city $$ based on the input of any private group. That's a slippery slope.
Wants to restore $75K of funding
Nagle: "I would at least like to see $100K go to the arts."
Wallach on board for $75K. We can always provide more later, he says.
Joseph to Swetlik and Wallach: What's the difference between $75K and $100K for you?
Wallach: "I could also live with $100K. We're just staring to (sigh) get way down in the weeds here."

His first sigh of the night! Incredible.
Swetlik: I'm fine moving to $100K but I don't like the feeling of a private group dictating council decisions, and that's what that feels like if we go to $100K.
On libraries, Brockett says: I would like us to be able to reopen the branches when public health orders allow. I'm fine doing it next year with the adjustments to base, but I want to see a plan for doing so.
The cost to reopen the branches was in the packet, but I didn't note them bc I don't understand it. What's the cost? Isn't there a savings bc they are closed?

I will explore these answers for you.
Prob $300K to get the NoBo library open, and the Reynolds branch as well.

So $300K for each... which ... why?
Wallach: Could we give you any $$ now that you could do something with?
David Farnan: We're trying to host families in the children's area.
Wallach: How much will that cost?
Farnan: We'd have to hire back 2.75FTE, 5 days a week, at the Main Library, $100K.
Wallach: And you could do that tomorrow if you had the $$?
Farnan: We'd have to hire. Those people no longer work for the city. Maybe... weeks?
Current plan is to reopen that a few days a week, by reservation, on/around Nov. 1
Wallach looks for council support for more $$ for this.
Friend: Is that your priority?
Farnan: Full service restoration is prob $800K, but core services, like story time, will cost less. But yes, this is a priority.
We're talking now about the rental licensing fee. Joseph doesn't want to increase it this year.
City subsidizing this for $200K per year, as a reminder.
Yates: You guys have prepared the budget on the assumption that we'd increase this, so we'd be short by $200K, right?
Yes, staff says.
Wallach: "I think a $200K hole in the budget is excessive." Even BARHA (landlord group) was OK with a graduated increase.
It's $105 every four years; going up to $190
Swetlik, Friend, Nagle, Yates and Young OK with the whole increase this year. Reminder: It's per property, not per unit.

Yates: How much is pays by the entity that pays the most? Someone who owns 40 properties? 100?
Staff doesn't know that right now.
Yates: "There's been no increase for many, many years. Right now the taxpayers are subsidizing that. It moves us to a cost recovery model."
Yates: When we're debating $100K for arts or $100K for human services, this is $100K spread out over thousands of property owners.
So that's settled: It will go up next year the full amount.
Friend still has issue with the two police officers Boulder is paying for at BVSD. The district is currently weighing what to do with that: Should there be School Resource Officers?
Brautigam: Our initial proposal was to fund 0 SROs this year, but when I shared it with BSVD, there was concern
The program has been reduced, budget-wise, on the city side. We're going to wait on the school district's decision and hopefully they'll fund whatever officers they decide on.
Friend does not want to fund these two officers, especially when BVSD is not back to fully re-opened schools.
Wallach: So if we don't end up paying for 2 SROs, can we use that $$ for other purposes? (Original plan was to use it for training)
Chief Maris Herold answers and I don't understand it. Neither does Wallach.
There's a proposal to not fund one and have the school fund one. Brautigam says that's what she proposed and BVSD said no.

Maybe we can be the bad guys, Yates says.
Brockett: "From a budgetary perspective, I'm not sure we can reclaim these budget dollars right now."
Swetlik asked about fire (I'm sorry, I missed what, exactly, as it's nearly 1 a.m. here) but apparently there's $160,000 left over to play with, so fire chief Mike Calderazzo talking about what he can use the $$ for.
We'll get more info on that at the second reading of the budget.
I *think* we're wrapping up with council giving $100K to housing/human services, $100K to the library, $100K to arts, and $160,000 to fire.
Did I miss something? I feel like I missed something, bc they're spending $560K
@AaronBrockett12 or @rachelkfriend will you tweet me about this when the meeting is over?
There's more kind of little detail for the budget but I'mma wrap this thread. @threadreaderapp please unroll. Thank you!

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