Fort Collins 2021 budget receives its first public hearing

Samantha Ye

Fort Collins residents had their first chance to comment on the 2021 City Manager’s Recommended Budget before City Council Tuesday night. 

Most of the public commenters brought up concerns highlighted by The BIPOC Alliance relating to police and social sustainability funding. 


City staff and City Manager Darin Atteberry addressed these initial questions summarized below. 

What happens if City revenue falls below the projected budget?

Resident Adam Eggleston found the budget still too large compared to projected revenues. 

The total City budget for 2021 is set at $696 million, down 2.8% from the amended 2020 budget, while total revenue is projected at $646 million, down 3.7% from the 2020 budget. The 2021 revenue is based on a “cautiously optimistic outlook for the next year, while being aware of concerns of national economists about the national economy,” page 8 of the abbreviated report reads.

“It’s really close, so if we don’t recover like we’re anticipating and we slow it all, we could be in for some financial hurt in 2021, so I would just caution with the current level of the budget,” Eggleston said.

Atteberry said staff will be preparing contingency plans in October to enact in case 2021 revenue does fall below projections.

Why is the Social Sustainability Department receiving a 42.6% cut in the budget?

The City received an injection of emergency funds from the federal Community Development Block Grant in the spring, pushing the 2020 Social Sustainability budget to over twice as much as it was in 2019.

With CDBG funding, the 2021 department budget falls 42.6% from 2020. However, the City itself put $2.9 million into Social Sustainability this year, said Travis Storin, interim chief financial officer, meaning if you compare City-only funding from this year to the next, the proposed 2021 budget would see a modest increase of 10% to $3.2 million.

The Social Sustainability Department covers affordable housing, homelessness and equity among other programs, and should not be shorted during the pandemic, public commenters emphasized.

Mayor Pro Tem Kristin Stephens said that from talking to federal representatives, there is still a possibility to obtain more federal recovery funds next year. 

“We certainly will advocate for those dollars to come into our community,” Stephens said. “And I think we should have a plan for those dollars and make sure that we’re looking at equity and racial equity issues … if we get those dollars into our community.”


Why is the police department receiving a raise right now?

One of the financial highlights of the budget is the wage increase for Fort Collins Police Services when the majority of City staff will see no salary adjustments.

The increase comes from a collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union. It is the third year of contractual salary increases.

Exact numbers are to be determined in early 2021, but several residents pointed out that it’s not a great look for FCPS to take this raise given the national social unrest around policing and employment problems faced by other staff and the community. 

“I’m appreciative for the comments that were made that no other City employees will be seeing increases, but that is the only bargaining unit that we have within the City, and I feel like we’ve made a commitment to that (contract), and we should honor that,” Atteberry said. “That’s why that’s in my recommended budget.”

The contract will face renegotiations in 2021, Atteberry said.

The budget recommendations report is difficult to access.

The report, released on Sept. 1, is 580 pages long in the PDF version, with a 119-page PDF abbreviated version.

Residents said it was too much to expect the average person to engage with such a dense and complex document and then return critical feedback to the City. There’s also a lack of translated material to explain the budget report, not to mention the use of financial language. 

Exacerbating difficulties is the City’s change from its usual two-year budget plan to one-year budgets for 2021 and 2022, resulting in less time spent on public outreach this year.

Councilmembers and staff acknowledged the struggles with making the report accessible. 

“It’s not purposely made to be difficult,” Stephens said. “It’s inherently difficult because it’s dealing with so much money in so many different, different programs.”

Stephens and the other councilmembers hope to fill in any gaps in understanding, they said. They offered to answer any questions residents may have about the budget and budgeting process throughout the next few months. Councilmember Emily Gorgol will be hosting a second budget listening session over Zoom on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.

Learn more about the City budget

Residents will have several more chances to learn about and comment on the budget before it is approved by City Council. 

  • Sept. 22, 6 p.m.: Council work session: There are no public comments at work sessions but the meeting will be livestreamed on FCTV like the normal meetings. Council will be discussing three budget areas: neighborhood livability and social health, safe community and high-performing government.
  • Oct. 6, 6 p.m.: Final public hearing
  • Oct. 13, 6 p.m.: Council work session: Council will be discussing the overall budget direction.
  • Nov. 4, 6 p.m.: Council’s first reading: There will be opportunity for public comment.
  • Nov. 17, 6 p.m.: Council’s second reading: There will be opportunity for public comment. Unless Council votes against adopting the budget or is otherwise delayed, the budget will be adopted at this meeting.

Find the reports on the City website or visit the budget dashboard page

Samantha Ye can be reached at or on Twitter @samxye4.