Boulder on Tuesday approved a $341.7 million budget that will begin to replenish the reserves the city dipped into because of the coronavirus pandemic and related economic downturn.

The budget, according to a memo from the city, represents a $27.97 million decrease from the 2020 approved budget. It includes cuts to programs, services and jobs, along with furloughs for most employees and no merit-pay increases for nonunion city employees, members of the Boulder Municipal Employees Association and members of the International Association of Firefighters.

Emergency personnel will not be furloughed and members of the Boulder Police Officer’s Association will be the only employees to receive a raise because of a contract that mandates it.

While each department is facing reductions, the city is continuing to plan for several projects. One such project allocates $1.7 million for the Fourmile Canyon Creek multiuse underpass at 19th Street, which will improve safety and accessibility to Crest View Elementary School and create additional flood capacity under the roadway.

Additionally, Boulder is proposing an almost $6.5 million new facility at the Flatirons Golf Course. The former facility was so badly damaged by the 2013 floods that it was demolished, according to Parks and Recreation Director Ali Rhodes in a September budget study session. Since then, there has been a trailer for bathrooms at the golf course. There was some initial hesitation about this project, but Boulder City Council ultimately agreed to move forward with it.

In a late night decision during its first budget hearing on Oct. 6, City Council opted to reduce the city’s reserves by $560,000 in order to add $200,000 for Housing and Human Services, $160,000 for Boulder Fire-Rescue and $100,000 apiece for arts and library funding. In the first public hearing, numerous people spoke against the proposed cuts to each, prompting council to reconsider its decision.

Despite this decision, the city will be adding to its reserves and intends to end with about $24 million in emergency reserves. While this is less than the 20% Boulder strives to have in reserves, Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Pattelli is hopeful the city will get there in the years to come.

“This weekend proved, with the fires … the importance of our reserves,” she said.

Council member Adam Swetlik said he would like to reconsider the timing of the annual board retreat. In his mind, it doesn’t make sense to approve a budget a few months before the annual retreat wherein the board works to set priorities for the upcoming year.

“I just kind of think it’s important that we not lock ourselves in monetarily before we have our actual legislative priorities laid out on the table,” he said.

Youth Opportunities Program 

Boulder cut grant funding to the Youth Opportunities Program, a leadership program that supports civic engagement and development.

Two people spoke against this in the public hearing, citing the impact of the program on their lives. Helen Rhea Vernier said the program made her into a “caring, engaged, confident and competent person.”

“Now more than ever, it’s important to continue funding programming like this,” she said.

Although the city is cutting grant funding, the program and its Youth Opportunities Advisory Board will continue.

“YOAB as a program and its primary activities are continuing,” Council member Aaron Brockett said.

Brockett, Swetlik and Council member Junie Joseph all pushed for restoring funding as soon as possible. Joseph asked whether it might be possible to move funds around to do so, but City Manager Jane Brautigam advised against it.

“My suggestion would be that you wait until we get a little bit into the coming year, see how we end the year in 2020 and then find the money in reserves or in, hopefully, additional new revenues … to fund that program,” she said.