Staff, salary increases part of next year’s budget

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Thornton City Council unanimously approved the city’s budget for 2014, which includes pay increases, 13.5 new staff positions and a significant amount of funding dedicated to capital improvements that were deferred during the recession.

Council’s approval of the budget came after a public hearing during its regular Sept. 10 meeting. Total budget for all funds totals $198,183,702 — which is almost $13 million, or 6 percent, less than the 2013 budget, said City Manager Jack Ethredge.

The 2014 budget has virtually $16 million reserved for capital improvements, up 25 percent from last year’s allocation.

“Clearly it’s a budget that is investing in the capital improvements that are needed by our community at a much greater scale than what we were able to do the last few years — particularly going through the recession,” Ethredge said.

He said since these are one-time investments, the city would use savings accrued during the recession.

Robb Kolstad, management and budget director, said deferring the repairs on city buildings and fleet replacement was a temporary measure to weather the recession.

“The 2014 budget proposes a substantial investment in fleet and facilities to ensure employees have reliable vehicle and well maintained buildings to serve the public,” he said.

The city will add 13.5 positions to make the number of employees to 822. These additions include 2.5 positions with the police department, 2 positions with the fire department and 2.5 positions with the city’s development department to assist with the development review process.

“During the recession there was a substantial reduction of staff in the City Development Department due to the decline in the housing market,” Ethredge said. “The staff that was there was reassigned to other functions at the time because during the recession the city of Thornton did not have any layoffs.”

Employees will get a 2 percent economic adjustment and a merit increase for those employees who have met performance standards during 2013. The total estimated increase in personnel costs as a result of these raises is $976,704, which includes approximately $679, 706 for merit increases and approximately $296,997 increase for insurance.

Staff will also receive diversity training and funding is allocated in 2014 for language lessons for employees who interface heavily with the public.

Street improvements scheduled for 2014 include the design work for 84th Avenue and Grant Street and improvement work at 88th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The city will also widen Holly Street from 123rd Avenue to Holly Circle to include four travel lanes, center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks.

There are several parks projects, Kolstad said, including design work on North Creek Farms Park as well as Signal Ditch Park.

“Along with these new parks, the irrigation system and play structures at the existing North Haven Park and Greenway will be replaced and landscaping along 124th Avenue and along York Street will be rehabilitated,” he said.

The budget also includes funding for a text messaging program for the Emergency Communications Center. The program allows citizens to request emergency services by text.

“Thornton will be one of the first communities in Colorado to implement this next step in 911 response,” Kolstad said.

The budget also funds mobile data computers for the fire department and the restoration of the Corporate Academy program.

“This program brings in interns from Thornton high schools to work on a part time basis on various city operations,” Kolstad said, adding that a number of city employees went through this program.