By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
The city’s newest budget calls for an increase in a variety of traffic fines to help close an estimated $100 million shortfall for the next fiscal year budget, Mayor John Hickenlooper announced yesterday.
City Council still has to approve the budget.
The budget plan also would add five furlough days for city employees, abolish nearly 160 full-time positions, reduce library hours and dip into the cash reserves to help balance the 2011 budget.
The upcoming fiscal year marks the third consecutive year city leaders have been faced with closing a budget shortfall.
Hickenlooper had to address the $100 million shortfall due in large part to a continual decline in sales tax revenue, a primary source of funding for the city’s general fund.
“We in the city have to live within our own means just like the people at home, and we have to make sure we balance our budget and live within those means,” he said.
The decision to raise the fines for more than 20 traffic violations was made because it was a way to keep the city safer while also generating revenue, Hickenlooper said. He added that the new fines, even when raised, would put Denver in line with what most other jurisdictions in the metro area charge. The traffic fine increases would include:
- Operating an unsafe vehicle would go from $40 to $85;
- Going 5-9 miles per hour over the posted speed limit would go from $40 to $79;
- A prohibited turn would go from $70 to $128;
- Failure to signal for a turn would go from $40 to $75;
- Not wearing a seat belt would go from $30 to $57;
- An obstructed window or windshield would go from $30 to $59.
The budget plan also would eliminate the ability for people to save money by paying their fines early. The raising of traffic fines and elimination of the early payment discount is expected to save the city $3,582,000.
Libraries also would take a hit in next year’s budget. Seven libraries would have reduced hours, which would result in the elimination of more than 15 jobs, if Council OKs the budget.
Many of the budget cuts would not be as noticeable, such as renegotiated contracts with the unions representing Denver police, fire and sheriff officers, and a restructuring of operations throughout the city.
Hickenlooper said there are signs that the economy is beginning to recover, but acknowledged that many people are unemployed and struggling to get by. He credited Denverites for their “certain Western spirit of toughness” as they face the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
“Within that toughness is a willingness to find innovation and create new ways of doing things that eliminate barriers to progress, to a certain extent,” he said.