Without additional discussion, the Colorado Springs City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the city's budget for next year.
Over the past months, council members and the public have voiced their opinions, sometimes heatedly, on the city's priorities for next year. But the budget's approval Tuesday afternoon during the council's regular meeting came without argument.
Councilman Andy Pico joked that the city's budget committee, of which he is a member, held many "cuss and discuss" sessions this year, "but when we came out of it we have something we can be proud of."
The budget, proposed by Mayor John Suthers, includes a general fund of nearly $300 million for next year. That includes an additional $7 million in the general fund that was freed by voters who this month approved a set of stormwater fees for property owners in the city.
After voters approved the fees, the budget was tweaked to include the hiring of 20 police officers, eight firefighters, a fire code inspector and a support employee for the Fire Department.
During several public comment sessions about the budget, the council found many people feel the city's transportation and parks budgets should be boosted.
Councilwoman Yolanda Avila chimed into the conversation as well, expressing frustrations about her district on the southeast side of town taking a back seat to other priorities within the city. She strongly urged the rest of the council to set aside more money for the city's bus system, giving her constituents more access to health care and job opportunities. After those discussions, the council recommended boosting the transit budget by $300,000 to increase the frequency of stops along two high-volume bus routes.
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services will receive $900,000 for new roofs on the City Auditorium and the Memorial Park Health and Fitness Facility. It will also receive $200,000 to cover this year's deficit in the water budget.
The budget also includes $5.5 million in pay raises for police and firefighters, $750,000 toward a landscaping project at Interstate 25 and Cimarron Avenue and a $1.2 million boost for city fleet replacement. A total of $2.4 million will go to the city's reserves.
The budget requires a second vote from the council for full approval. The second vote will take place next month. Then the document goes to Suthers, who can veto line items he disagrees with. City spokeswoman Jamie Fabos said Suthers does not anticipate vetoing anything with the changes that have been discussed.
City Council President Richard Skorman, who served on the council from 1999 to 2006, said this year's budgetary process is the "smoothest" he has experienced.