Durango staff proposed a budget for next year that includes almost $2 million more in spending, most of which will be used to increase pay and hire more city employees.
The proposed 2020 budget for the city of Durango focuses on fiscal sustainability, said Interim City Manager Amber Blake in her presentation this week to City Council. The 350-page fiscal document includes spending proposals in line with a study completed earlier this year that found Durango doesn’t pay its employees enough.
The proposal does not recommended a tax increase.
As things stand now, 39% of job titles in the city are below salary minimums, or “the minimum amount of compensation the organization has deemed appropriate for a position,” according to the report.
If the city doesn’t improve salaries for staff, market forces like an aging population of baby boomer workers retiring and a new generation of millennial employees who often change jobs after just a few years may perpetuate employee turnover and drain the city of resources, consultants found after an evaluation of 166 city positions.
The draft 2020 budget also includes proposals for five more employees at the Durango Public Library, which would allow the library to open on Sundays and extend hours on weekdays. It also includes funding for a life guard in the Parks and Recreation Department, an administrative analyst in the Finance Department and a marketing specialist in the Public Information Office.
Durango voters approved a half-cent city sales tax increase – from 3% to 3.5% – in April that went into effect July 1. The 2020 budget includes about $4.46 million in additional revenue from the approved tax, about half of which is earmarked to repair and replace streets around Durango, including the failing Thomas Avenue. The rest will be divided among other infrastructure endeavors, including the stormwater master plan and an update to the city’s global information system.
City staff published the proposed budget less than an hour before the start of a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night, and Blake’s presentation was the first public discussion of the 2020 budget.
City councilors gave limited comments to staff at the budget presentation in anticipation of two daylong meetings scheduled for next week to discuss the finer details of the proposal.
City Councilor Chris Bettin asked if transit routes would change if the proposed budget is approved – they won’t, staff said – and other questions about revenue projects and a new position in the Finance Department. City Councilors Melissa Youssef, Kim Baxter and Barbara Noseworthy said they’d hold their questions until next week. City Councilor Dean Brookie did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
The next City Council public hearing on the 2020 proposed budget is scheduled for Nov. 5. The council is scheduled to adopt the document Dec. 3.