Trees and grassy knolls in Colorado Springs could face a water shortage in 2014 if the City Council and Utilities cannot strike a deal.
Mayor Steve Bach's proposed 2014 parks budget is counting on a reduced water rate from Colorado Springs Utilities so that the city can water its parks at the same level it did in 2013. Bach's budget seeks to spend $2.6 million on water in 2014. If the city cannot negotiate a lower water rate with Utilities, the city would need $1.3 million more - money that is not in the budget.
Council members Val Snider and Merv Bennett said the council is in discussions with Utilities about a reduced rate for the city, which started in 2010 under a pilot program.
The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services budget - with seven divisions and 147 employees - is among the city's most challenging, said Kara Skinner, the city's CFO. Some of the divisions, including cemeteries and golf, are self-sustaining and get no money from the general fund. Overall, under Bach's proposal, the parks department would get a 4.8 percent increase in 2014 from the general fund.
The change: Parks operations and development would go from $5.55 million to $5.58 million in 2014, and Recreation and Administration would increase from $5.3 million to $5.5 million. The budget also calls for spending $300,000 to upgrade restrooms at City Auditorium.
What it means: The proposed park budget assumes Utilities would continue a discounted municipal water rate. The discounted rate applies during what has been called the irrigation season, from May to October. It would not apply to year-around watering.
Who cares: Park enthusiasts. Parks officials said 55 trees in the downtown area have died in the drought.
Sticking points: Some City Council members want to increase the overall parks budget. Council members asked the parks director to give provide a requested budget so they can determine the total needs. Any increase to parks would be a decrease to some other budget. City council will mark up the mayor's proposed budget Nov. 5.