Reductions under contingency budget, by department

Arts -- 12.8 percent

City attorney -- 5.6 percent

City manager's office -- 5.5 percent

Community planning and sustainability -- 2.3 percent

Downtown and University Hill management and parking -- 1.9 percent

Finance -- 7.1 percent

Fire -- 0.6 percent

Housing and human services -- 1.9 percent

Human resources -- 5.7 percent

Information technology -- 5.6 percent

Library -- 4.2 percent

Municipal court -- 5.5 percent

Open space and mountain parks -- 0.5 percent

Parks and recreation -- 1.5 percent

Police -- 3.8 percent

Public works -- 0.5 percent

Total reductions -- $4.2 million

Calling it "a budget that we hope never comes to be," Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam outlined for the City Council on Tuesday night a contingency plan that would be used if voters this fall reject imposing a tax on Xcel Energy.

The consequences of the tax measure failing, she warned, would include cutting library hours, laying off the equivalent of 27.7 full-time employees and making "very severe" cuts to the police budget and other city services.

Question 2B on the November ballot seeks to impose a utility occupation tax on Xcel, to replace a $4.1 million franchise fee that will expire along with the city's 20-year franchise agreement with the utility. The City Council earlier this year decided not to renew the franchise agreement, instead opting to ask voters to approve a five-year tax that would likely be passed on to Xcel customers while the city studies options for its energy sources.

But the move didn't come without risks, and now the city is planning for the possibility that voters might not approve the tax.

Reducing library hours -- which has often been floated during Boulder's various budget woes -- would likely happen if 2B fails. The city would cut 10 hours a week of employee time at the Carnegie Library Local History Branch. Two hours of public operation would be cut from the main library on Sundays.

The cuts would mean that all of Boulder's library locations would be open only four hours, from 1 to 5 p.m., on Sundays. The main branch, as well as the Meadows and Reynolds branch locations, would also close at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday -- one hour earlier than normal.

"We do know that people don't want to cut the hours at the library by one minute," Brautigam said, but the cuts would be all but inevitable if the city is forced to come up with more than $4 million next year that it hadn't planned for.

The regular proposed budget for 2011 already calls for eliminating the equivalent of 19.74 full-time jobs. The contingency budget would add another 27.7 full-time positions to the layoffs next year.

"If this comes to pass, there would be around 48 (full-time employees) that we would lose," Brautigam said.

Those cuts would likely mean reduced service to the public in some areas.

"This will be felt in the community," she said.

The Boulder Police Department also would feel the pain under the contingency plan, taking nearly a $1 million budget reduction. That department would be hit especially hard because the contingency cuts affect only the city's general fund, which is almost exclusively the source of funding for police services.

"Its cuts are going to be very severe," Brautigam said.

Chief Mark Beckner told the council that the proposed cuts under the alternate plan could result in "some delay" in creating investigative transcripts and other work performed by non-uniformed employees. He said that officers would have to pick up some work that's being done by support positions.

The Boulder Fire Department is slated for a $95,000 cut under the contingency budget, which would not affect firefighters or services. Instead, the city manager said, she would require the department to come up with cost savings to pay outgoing employees saved vacation time and other outgoing benefits. Those costs had historically been paid out of the general fund.

City-supported arts programs could also take a major financial hit, losing $65,000 next year, or 12.8 percent of their overall budget. Those cuts would likely hurt the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in particular.

Councilwoman Suzy Ageton said there was at least one area of the city that was left off of Brautigam's potential cuts.

"Should 2B not pass, I would ask the city manager to include the City Council's budget," she said. "I think we should be sharing in the cuts, if they come."

While the contingency budget is a dire proposition, Brautigam said, it's a relatively small burden compared with the cuts that would have to be made if any or all of three statewide ballot measures are approved this fall.

Combined, the effects of Amendments 60 and 61, along with Proposition 101, could mean the need for between $26 million and $54 million in cuts to Boulder's budget within the next four years. Brautigam is working on creating a detailed plan for exactly where those cuts would come from, but in general, they would likely mean reduced hours of city services and more layoffs.

Amendment 60 would amend the state constitution to impose restrictions on the collection of property taxes, require government entities to pay property taxes and make other tax-related changes.

Boulder's finance office believes that, if the measure is approved, the city budget could be hit with an additional $7.6 million to $32.2 million deficit. To make up the difference, the city could be forced to increase water rates by up to 104 percent, according to city estimates.

Amendment 61 would change the way that Colorado governments are allowed to take on debt. State borrowing would be prohibited, and local governments would require voter approval to borrow any money.

Boulder's finance officials estimate that measure could have the biggest impact on the city's open-space fund. Based on current projections, the fund would face a reduction of about $2.5 million in 2012 when several large leases pay off. Open space would probably have to take on additional cuts over six years, ranging from $1 million to $1.7 million a year.

Because Amendment 61 would limit debt repayment to 10 years, the city would need to pay about $445,000 more per year, per $10 million worth of debt, officials estimate.

Proposition 101 is a statutory change that would reduce vehicle taxes and fees, telecommunication service taxes and the state income tax. Boulder officials estimate that measure would reduce the city's annual budget by $6.2 million in 2011 and $7.9 million by 2014.

The council will not vote on the 2011 budget until after the November election, when the full impact of the various ballot measures will be known.