Residents voice concern about parks, public transit funding

October 21, 2013 Updated: October 21, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Parks and public transportation were two issues that drew about 20 people Thursday to a Colorado Springs City Council public hearing about the proposed 2014 general operating fund budget.

About a dozen residents also called, tweeted and emailed comments to council members during the hearing.

Susan Davies, who heads up the Trails and Open Space Coalition, made a plea for more money in the city's parks budget, which is scheduled to pick up about a $33,000 increase from the city's general fund for operations and development and about $200,000 for its recreation and administration budget over the 2013 budget.

Four years ago, the city took a huge chunk out of the parks budget, Davies said. Some services were added in the 2013 budget, but Davies worries about a projected $1.13 million shortfall in the 2014 watering budget.

"Parks should not be forced to choose between watering our trees and other critical projects," she said.

Mayor Steve Bach's 2014 proposed budget is counting on the council to strike a deal with Colorado Springs Utilities for an extension on a pilot project that provides water for city parks at a discounted rate. Council members will meet with Utilities officials to work out the issue.

Pam Maier urged the council to spend some of its Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax fund to hire two park rangers for the Garden of the Gods Park and Helen Hunt Falls - two attractions that attract more than 1 million tourists a year.

Bach's budget proposal would spend $150,000 of the LART fund on the two park rangers. If the council approves his budget, it would be the first time LART money would be spent on salaries. Typically the money is doled out to community organizations that promote tourism and economic development.

Residents are excited about the proposed bus service to the Powers Boulevard corridor and asked the council to approve it.

"There are thousands of jobs out there that people would love to get access to," said Sharon King, who works on the city's transit issues.

Bach's budget uses a combination of grant money and Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority funds to extend bus service to the Powers Boulevard corridor and restore Sunday bus service.

Courtney Stone applauded the plan, saying the city should consider transit as a draw for young professionals like herself.

"The trend is for this generation to take public transit," she said.

The City Council's budget committee will meet next week to pore over the Mayor's $245.6 million general operating budget, which is $13.8 million more than the 2013 budget.

Council members are expected to mark up the budget and make their recommendations in November.

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