City Manager Jane Brautigam today released the 2020 Recommended Budget that aligns council and community priorities and reflects the importance of providing essential services to community members.

It balances ongoing expenses with ongoing revenues and limits new expenses. The Recommended Budget also revisits and executes past recommendations that create efficiencies and eliminate redundancies across city departments.

“This recommended budget addresses community needs and priorities within the context of the current and projected city revenues,” said City Manager Jane Brautigam. “As we plan for 2020, there are reasons to proceed cautiously. While Boulder’s financial foundation remains strong, the city faces several challenges. The primary challenge is accommodating increased costs while balancing costs against projected revenues.  The second challenge is the rising cost of labor.”

City Council will first discuss the recommended budget at its Sept. 10 study session, with two public hearings in October.

The Recommended Budget of $369.0 million reflects an increase in the overall city budget by 4.3% compared to the 2019 budget mainly due to an increased capital budget compared to 2019.

The Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a six-year plan to maintain and improve the city’s infrastructure. In the proposed 2020-2025 CIP, $85.6 million is recommended for 2020, and approximately $564.9 million is recommended for project allocations for years 2020-2025. The 2020 proposed CIP is lower than anticipated at this time last year based on timing of large utility projects that have been pushed to 2022.  About 82% of the six-year CIP is allocated to repair, rehabilitation and enhancements for existing public facilities. These capital investments are prioritized, and funds are set aside over time, to directly cover the costs of planned projects. Because of large variances in capital, it is better to look at the operating budget change.

The proposed operating budget representing a 1.8% increase compared to 2019. Similarly, the 2020 General Fund Recommended Budget increased 1.6%, or $2.5 million, more than the 2019 budget.

The 2020 Recommended Budget projects retail sales tax will continue to grow, at a slower rate, and assumes a 2.1% increase above the 2019 end-of year projection of 1.9% growth over 2018. Through June 2019, use tax revenues are down over 2018. Most notably, construction use tax is down 11.5% and business use tax is down 10.7 %. For 2020, the city’s portion of property tax is estimated to increase approximately 10.5% or $4.5 million city-wide ($3.4 million in the General Fund). This increase in property tax revenue will help compensate for the slower growth in sales and use tax revenue. Boulder’s diverse tax structure is designed to accommodate shifts in revenue growth to continue the delivery of essential services.

Because retail sales tax trends indicate a slower-growth local economy next year, the recommended budget takes a conservative approach that addresses essential services and key council priorities while focusing on citywide benefit, risk mitigation and good governance to ensure Boulder remains a fiscally sustainable community.

The 2020 Recommended Budget includes funding for the following key initiatives:

  • Electronic Signatures and Petitioning – Measure 2G authorized the council to allow for on-line signing or endorsement of initiative petitions.  This project aims to identify the requirements needed in order to achieve the goals of this measure, which the electors voted in favor of on Nov. 6, 2018, and to implement an appropriate solution that meets those requirements. 
  • Library Master Plan – the 2020 budget continues investment in the Library’s Master Plan and expands funding into the Meet Community Demand service level by adding a new Bilingual Youth Services Specialist, a new Volunteer Services Specialist, George Reynolds Branch Library Collection and Public Space Reconfiguration as well as planned investment in North Boulder (NoBo) Library operating expenses, beginning in 2021.
  • Transportation Essential Services – Safety and providing essential services are the highest priorities within the city’s Transportation Master Plan. Transportation-related essential services such as snow and ice removal, pothole filling and street repair as well as median maintenance provide travel safety, multi-modal access, and protect the investment in our existing infrastructure.
  • Language Access Specialist – A language access specialist will support the city’s efforts to identify and implement best practices to support inclusive and meaningful communication and engagement. Specifically, the individual will spearhead the creation of a language access plan, which will chart short-, mid- and long-term goals and strategies for when and how the city will offer Spanish translation and interpretation services. In addition to overseeing the plan creation, this bilingual colleague will provide strategic counsel related to language access, vet outside translators and interpreters and back-translate city documents to ensure consistency and quality. 
  • Living Wage – Council opted in 2003 to adopt Resolution 926 that directed the city manager to recommend annual budget appropriations necessary to pay its standard, full-time employees no less than 120% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. In 2015, the methodology was updated to reflect the Colorado Self Sufficiency Scale (SSS), a better predictor of regional living costs. Council agreed with the staff recommendation to make appropriate future adjustments in the context of updates to the SSS, salary and market data, and as budget resources and priorities allow. The 2020 budget increases the minimum Living Wage to $17.42/hour.
  • Cyber Security – This position will be supporting the cyber security program, as well as supporting server administration tasks with a security or resilience component as identified in the Innovation & Technology department’s strategic assessment.  This includes supporting the identity management system, digital communication systems, network firewalls, and enterprise security tools.

The full 2020 Recommended Budget is available on All council discussions about the 2020 city budget are televised on Boulder channels 8 and 880. Meetings also are web-streamed on City Council will discuss the recommended budget at the Sept. 10 study session. It will hold an initial public hearing and consider the 2020 Recommended Budget on Tuesday, October 1.

Published: Aug. 29, 2019

Media Contacts:

Kady Doelling, Executive Budget Officer, 303-441-1848
Bryan Rachal, Deputy Director of Communication, 303-441-3155

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