Key numbers in the Fort Collins 2021 City budget proposal

Serena Bettis

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted countless plans, the City of Fort Collins’ budgeting process included.

Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry published his recommended 2021 budget on Tuesday, and The Collegian has pulled out some key points from the 117-page abbreviated version of the budget so you don’t have to.

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“Given the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic, it was determined that modifications needed to be made to both our processes and timelines,” Atteberry wrote in his introduction to the budget. “As part of those modifications, Council approved … the adoption of a one-year budget and (temporary revision of) the City’s budgeting process.”

The total City budget for 2021 will be $696 million, down 2.8% from the amended 2020 budget.

Due to the uncertainty and decreased revenue brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Collins City Council will consider a one-year budget for both 2021 and 2022 before returning to the standard biennial (two year) process.

The 2020 City revenue forecast places the City in the position to make $19.8 million less than in 2019.

The 2021 budget proposal states that the budget includes “modest assumptions for growth” from the reduced base revenue of governmental and enterprise funds as well as grants and contributions for 2020, which is projected at $486.1 million. 2021 revenue is projected at $481.9 million.

Governmental revenue in Fort Collins comes from sales, use and property taxes, payments in lieu of taxes and user charges and fees. Atteberry’s 2021 budget states that “the general fund accounts for 69% of all governmental revenue.”

According to page 12 of the proposed budget, “The City’s Enterprise Funds are those funds that provide services based on fees generated to support operations.”

Enterprise services include water, wastewater, stormwater, electric and broadband services. Electric utility rates have a proposed 3% increase while all water utilities have no proposed increases and the broadband services are still in “buildout mode.”

Under normal circumstances, Fort Collins adopts a two-year budget using a process called Budgeting for Outcomes, which places a priority on community needs over specific departments.

The City has seven key outcome areas: 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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“By orienting around those results, the budget process shifts from paying for costs to prioritizing and ‘buying’ specific programs, services or initiatives that will help us achieve those results,” the BFO website reads.

Atteberry wrote that the budgeting process for 2021 “became more tactical, as we were not able to utilize the BFO Teams who play such an important role in the BFO process through the evaluation of budget requests (Offers) and generation of Offer rankings.”

Budget offers for each of the seven outcomes are $16.6 million for neighborhood livability and social health, $37.9 million for culture and recreation, $164.3 million for economic health, $78.7 million for environmental health, $98.3 million for safe community, $75.7 million for transportation and $111 million for high performing government.

“The 2021 budget proposal states that the budget includes ‘modest assumptions for growth’ from the reduced base revenue of governmental and enterprise funds and grants and contributions for 2020, which is projected at $486.1 million.”

Budget offers not included in the seven outcomes total $113.5 million for utilities, debt servicing, transfer funds and more.

General enhancements among the seven outcomes include homelessness initiatives and human services program funding; upgraded equipment and technology for light and power utilities; waterline improvements and stormwater maintenance; and sidewalk, intersection and transit improvements.

Opportunities for community input in the budgeting process started mid-July and will continue through September. The first Council work session on the budget is Sept. 8 and the first public hearing is Sept. 15. A full schedule of input opportunities is available on the 2021 budget website.

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