City opens 2021 budget process, focuses on community input

Serena Bettis

The City of Fort Collins started their 2021 budgeting process with a community forum over Zoom Thursday night to give citizens a brief overview of the 2021 budget process and address community concerns. 

Since 2005, Fort Collins has used a budgeting process called Budgeting for Outcomes that aims to focus on results and priorities, not on costs. Interim Chief Financial Officer Travis Storin said BFO puts citizens and priorities first and forces the community to reset the financial status quo every two years.

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“As it pertains to the budget being a foundational document within the City, I know I speak for our city council and for the City staff in that we believe that our budget that is adopted every November really represents a promise to you, the residents, of what will be the services that you will receive in the following year,” Storin said. 

Many questions from the community related to divestment from Fort Collins Police Services, transparency in their funds and more investment in marginalized communities. 

Deputy City Manager Kelly DiMartino said City Council has created an ad hoc committee to look at how they can create a community that has safe outcomes for all and what community-based programs they can invest in to achieve this outcome. 

“I want to acknowledge that this is an area where I think, as an organization, we’re really learning a lot and recognizing that we have some growing to do,” DiMartino said. “When it comes specifically to … people of color, I think we have not necessarily captured our spending directly for those audiences in the past, or those community members, so we definitely have some work to do there.”

We believe that our budget that is adopted every November really represents a promise to you, the residents, of what will be the services that you will receive in the following year.” -Travis Storin, City of Fort Collins interim chief financial officer

When asked what reductions might be made to the FCPS budget, Budget Director Lawrence Pollack said it is too soon to definitively say what cuts will or will not happen. 

“Reduction in costs and potential service impacts are being evaluated for programs across the entire City with an intention to minimize the impact on our community,” Pollack said. “So it’s quite a balancing act. Like I said, those dialogues really kicked off in earnest today, and the executive team will be working over the next month to finalize the decisions that are in the recommended budget.”

a bar graph of revenue shortfalls
The City of Fort Collins has experienced a revenue shortfall of $14.7 million since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March. Photo courtesy of the City of Fort Collins.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the City budget that will be adopted in November will be for one year instead of the usual two. 

From March to June of this year, Fort Collins saw a 9% revenue shortfall of $14.7 million, Storin said. While economic uncertainty persists during the pandemic, it is clear that major revenue shortfalls will continue to impact community businesses and the City budget, Storin said. 

“The City’s own revenue is really built on the underlying economy given that so much is funded by sales tax, which represents consumer spending in the City,” Storin said.

Storin listed seven outcome areas that the budget will continue to focus on: neighborhood livability and social health, culture and recreation, economic health, environmental health, safe community, transportation and mobility and high performing government. 

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The City of Fort Collins has a list of key dates on their 2021 budget website to provide more opportunities for community members to give input and ask questions, including multiple community forums held from July to September and two public hearing sessions in September and October.

The recommended budget will be published by the city manager on Sept. 1.

Serena Bettis can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.