Colorado Springs can't live up to its scenery without parks, outdoor advocates told the City Council during a public budget hearing Tuesday night.
About $15 million is allotted for the city's parks next year, though 10 years ago the parks got closer to $20 million, said Susan Davies, executive director of the Trails & Open Space Coalition.
Since the city's first public budget hearing in October, voters approved a set of stormwater fees that will free $7 million in the city's general fund after the fees kick in next July.
More of that money should be allocated to city parks and bus routes, residents told the council at the hearing.
Proposals for much of that money is in an amended city budget though, which recommends hiring 20 police officers, eight firefighters and two additional Fire Department employees. It also proposes setting aside $900,000 for parks maintenance and contributing $2.7 million to the city's reserves.
Davies said she's thankful that voters approved the stormwater fees and appreciative of the extra money for parks maintenance, but it's not enough.
"It's a nice token, but that's all it is," she said.
Parks boost property values, residents' health and provide recreational opportunities, she said. And when they're not maintained, the town suffers.
Dozens of the city's parks are "literally crumbling," Davies said.
Council President Richard Skorman acknowledged the shortcomings and said he also wants to allocate more money to parks. Perhaps in the next couple of years, the city can catch up to the 2008 funding levels, he said, though that still would be low funding since prices have increased over the past decade.
Wednesday morning, city staff leaders will present the council with another updated budget containing their suggestions and those from the public.
That updated budget will address a plan to save money by watering the parks more efficiently, which is a step in the right direction, Skorman said.
The new budget also will recommend additions to the city's transportation services, said Councilwoman Yolanda Avila.
Courtney Stone, of the Community Transit Coalition, told the council she wants buses to stop more frequently along city routes.
Avila, who has lobbied for years for that cause, said she wants buses to stop every 15 minutes along north-south Routes 1 and 27. She said she also wants to add a robust east-west route, possibly between Powers and Union boulevards.
A boost to transportation, especially among residents of her southeast quadrant, will ease access to jobs, mitigate health issues and help residents access the city's parks, Avila said.
After the council reviews the proposed budget Wednesday and suggests changes, it will re-examine the document Nov. 27. The council will vote whether to approve the budget on Nov. 28, with the required second and final vote to come Dec. 12.