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Colorado Springs 2020 budget proposal prioritizes public safety departments

Mayor John Suthers presented his 2020 budget proposal to the City Council of Colorado Springs on Monday. The new budget is $331.1 million, which is $23 million more than the 2019 budget.

Suthers said most of the budget is going toward public safety and would cover the costs of emergency, firefighter and police departments.

“Police and fire are over 50 percent of our budget,” he said. “I think the public agrees with that prioritization.”

In recent years, the city has experienced a shortage of sworn-in firefighters and police officers. The 2020 budget would address that shortage by providing $4.4 million of increased funding for 20 police positions and eight new firefighter positions.

In an interview with Pete Carey back in December, the former chief of police in Colorado Springs said between two and six officers were leaving the department each month.

“We try to let people know we give them the best training that we can provide them and the best equipment, things like that,” Carey said. “But much like military service, the nature of police work is there are times when it’s dangerous.”

The fire department in Colorado Springs also shares a shortage of firefighters, according to Fire Chief Ted Collas. However, the shortage in firefighters is mostly due to the growing population.

“Colorado Springs is probably approaching the 480,000 population number,” Collas said. “And as our community grows it puts a strain on all of our resources. We have to have the resources to keep up with that kind of growth.”

Suthers said the budget will address these shortages and while also keeping the wages of officers and firefighters competitive with national averages.

“The great thing about local government, unlike the federal government, is that it’s actually balanced,” Suthers said. “The other great thing about the city of Colorado Springs is we have very little debt.”

Other 2019 General Fund highlights include:

$4.4 million of increased funding for 20 new sworn police positions and 8 new sworn fire positions and equipment
$400,000 of increased funding for park maintenance, recreational and cultural service needs
$1.45 million of increased funding for park watering
$1.4 million continued funding for the City’s Americans with Disabilities Act operating and capital programs
$550,000 of increased funding for city fleet replacement
$500,000 of funding to support shelter bed operations for the homeless population
$300,000 increased funding to Mountain Metro Transit
$1.3 million continuing support to address Information Technology core infrastructure, applications, and cybersecurity improvements and sustainment
$9.65 million to keep police and fire sworn compensation at the market average, increases for civilian compensation, and full-year funding for the portion of compensation that was phased in during 2019
$1.0 million one-time increased funding for an aerial ladder truck for the Fire Department

The complete proposed 2020 budget is available online.

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