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Colorado Springs pushing limits on cutting city services
How much service should we expect from our city government?
It's a question city councillors struggle with every budget season and city administrators deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Now one of the bright spots on the front range of the Colorado Rockies -- Colorado Springs -- is finding out just how far city services can be cut.
According to the Denver Post, a third of the streetlights are being shut off, police helicopters are for sale on the Internet, and the city is dropping firefighter jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators and beat cops.
Trash cans are gone from the parks, and visitors are urged to pack out their own litter. Green spaces are being left unmown for weeks at a time, with concerned neighbors welcome to use their own mowers on the plots.
And don't look for green city parks next summer -- water, flower and fertilizer budgets have been cut to nothing. City recreation centers, pools and some museums will close unless private funding has been found.
Street construction won't be a problem next summer; there's no budget for it, other than a regional authority that can pay for only 10 percent of the needed repairs. And, buses won't run on evenings or weekends any longer.
The problem, of course, is taxes. Sales tax receipts were down almost $22 million from 2007 to 2010, and in November, voters resounding defeated a plan to triple property taxes and restore $27.6 million to the city's $212 million general fund budget.
The reason, of course, is a general mistrust of government, and figures quoted in the Post article didn't help. While each worker costs the luxury Broadmore $24,000 a year, the city pays $89,000 for each employee.
Who will blink first? Will the taxpayers relent and fork over more money for better services, or will the city find ways to provide acceptable services for the money it has.
With tight budgets across the nation, Colorado Springs will be an interesting case study to observe in the coming years.