Achieving Boulder’s years-old goal of a fatter reserve fund, a projected 6% overall increase to the average single-family home’s water bill and a $700,000 project to add a doorway to the northeast side of the Municipal Building are among the notable points of the city’s proposed 2020 budget.
About a decade ago, Boulder had 10% of its general fund earmarked as reserve funds, “far below what is considered prudent for municipalities,” Councilman Bob Yates’ monthly newsletter said.
Shortly after City Manager Jane Brautigam was hired to take the helm of Boulder’s finances in 2008, she set a goal to double that percentage, doing so little by little. This year, the city will achieve that, if city council approves the budget as currently constructed.
Bumping the city reserves from 19% to 20% of the general fund next near will give Boulder “a $29 million cushion to protect the city when the inevitable economic downturn or natural disaster occurs,” Yates said. “I applaud Jane’s foresight and perseverance.”
The proposed budget also includes utility rate hikes of 7% for the base water charge, 5% for the wastewater charge and 7% for the storm water and flood management charge. But a city staff memo states decreased water usage as a whole has protected families from realizing the full impact of recent rate increases on their living expenses, stating the water rate has risen 5% on average over the last 10 years, with the mean single-family home bill increasing 3.7% annually.
With the same amount of water use between 2019 and 2020, the typical single-family home will see about a $5.66 monthly bill jump from $91.05 this year to $96.71 next.
“The city’s utility rates remain in the top third of other Front Range utilities,” the memo stated.
But Boulder’s stormwater and flood management rates are relatively expensive because the city is at the greatest risk of flood in Colorado, according to the memo, with 4,600 flood insurance policies in the city. That amounts to 2.5 times more policies than any other city in the state, and nine times more when adjusted for Boulder’s population compared to its fellow Colorado cities.
Additionally, the Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway, will undergo a renovation to add a Broadway-facing doorway that will cost almost three-quarters of $1 million. It will include a flood-proofed vestibule and exterior doors, a reconfiguration of the Sister Cities plaza and sidewalk on the building’s east side and interior modifications to the current reception desk.
The $700,000 project is being funded by a $4.7 million Boulder General Fund allocation to its 2020 capital improvement budget.
“In 2018, we adopted a policy to increase general fund contribution to capital projects,” Boulder Executive Budget Officer Kady Doelling said.
This year’s general fund pitch-in to the capital improvement costs will also help provide:
- A $400,000 budget for the city to bring online a voter-approved electronic petition signature-gathering system for election ballot measures
- Support for a $360,000 replacement of the police department’s bomb team truck
- Continued work on city’s fiber backbone project through backing financing instruments that were to be sold this month
- Payments for the $5 million Hogan Pancost property once envisioned for development, but recently dedicated to flood mitigation
A $600,000 capital improvement request by Public Works for essential transportation services has also been made by city staff which, with council approval, would boost the department’s road maintenance and snow and ice removal capabilities.
Out of that request, Interim Co-Director of Public Works for Transportation Bill Cowern said $350,000 will go to increased median care, $150,000 to greater snow and ice removal, especially for multi-modal transportation infrastructure and residential streets, and $100,000 for pavement management and street repair, mostly marked for filling potholes.
Last year, the city filled about 1,700 potholes, Cowern said, and the extra $100,000 would give the city breadth to fill more than 2,000 in 2020.
“We would very much like to increase our ability to be proactive in our ability to get potholes filled rather than reactive the way we are mostly now,” Cowern said.