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Mayor's proposed budget includes Colorado Springs police and fire pay increases, boost to stormwater funding

October 3, 2016 Updated: October 4, 2016 at 7:17 am
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photo - Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers speaks Wednesday, March 2, 2016, during a press conference recognizing Colorado Springs as the fifth best city to live in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers speaks Wednesday, March 2, 2016, during a press conference recognizing Colorado Springs as the fifth best city to live in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers' proposed 2017 budget includes employee salary raises and additional stormwater funding, part of a general fund that would increase by $5.7 million.

In the budget submitted to City Council Monday, general fund increases include $3.2 million to employee pay, $1 million to stormwater infrastructure projects and $2.2 million to funding for sworn police and fire pension plans.

The 2.1-percent general fund increase - which brings the total budget to $272.4 million - would come in part through a projected sales tax increase of 3.2 percent over the 2016 end-of-year forecast.

"Now, $5.7 million sounds like a lot of money, but when you consider some of the obligations we have to deal with, that money is very quickly accounted for," Suthers said.

Pay for sworn police and fire personnel would increase at least 2 percent. Other employees could receive merit-based pay increases, Suthers said.

Colorado Springs Police Department recruits' pay would increase about 5 percent, which Suthers said would bump their salaries to $50,000. Officers with less than five years' tenure would receive similar raises.

Police starting salaries would remain "significantly behind" starting salaries at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, Suthers said, but he hoped the proposed increases would aid recruiting efforts.

"You hope that by raising the recruit pay a little bit, it would help your recruiting efforts, but let's be honest, there's a lot of things going on with police these days - we're losing some potential recruits because, given the national environment, some people decide not to be peace officers," Suthers said.

Some police and fire employees are part of a closed pension fund, and the city is required to contribute an additional $2.2 million to the fund in part because people are living longer than projected, Suthers said. As a result, he said, other budget priorities were sacrificed.

Mountain Metro Transit would receive an additional $577,000, meeting a $5.7-million PPRTA transit maintenance of effort commitment made in 2004, and the Colorado Springs Fire Department would receive $995,000 for staff and operations at the city's new fire station.

An additional $1 million allocated to stormwater programs would help fulfill the intergovernmental agreement the city entered into with Pueblo in April, under which the city and Colorado Springs Utilities will spend $460 million over the next 20 years on stormwater infrastructure projects.

The city has budgeted about $16 million for the stormwater program in 2017.

As he looks at the proposed budget, Suthers said he is grateful for the city's ability to meet its obligations, including transit and stormwater increases.

"Overall, what I feel good about is that the economy is doing well to allow us to meet the occurring obligations," Suthers said. "The concern, of course, is when we face the next inevitable slow down. How are we going to deal with that?"

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Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198

Twitter: @lemarie

Facebook: Ellie Mulder

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