A Minnesota reader of the Denver Post called our attention to its recent dispatch from Colorado Springs, which may be leading the way for cities of its size (308,000) in demonstrating what deep cuts in city spending mean.
The recession and an aversion to higher taxes have combined in Colorado's second most populous city to create a $25 million gap in its $212 million general fund budget. The consequences are bound to be noticed by every citizen. A third of the city's streetlights have been turned off. Museums, recreation centers, parks and libraries are either cutting hours or closing. Watering city-owned lawns has been eliminated, and residents are being asked to help mow city grass. The home page on the city's web site advises parks users to remove their own trash from neighborhood parks and trails, because city trash collection there has been eliminated.
That's not to mention the "dozens" of police and firefighting jobs being eliminated, and the police helicopters being sold.
We know of no Minnesota city whose budget distress is that severe -- yet. But with Gov. Tim Pawlenty still insisting, as he did on his WCCO-AM radio program Friday, that cities are going overboard in raising taxes to compensate for state aid cuts, a bigger squeeze on city budgets is likely coming in this state. Colorado Springs' actions could turn out to be a template for cities here and elsewhere trying to balance their recession-depleted budgets with spending cuts alone.