One of Mayor John Hickenlooper's proposals to help make up a $100 million deficit includes nearly doubling the traffic fines for going 5 to 9 mph over the speed limit from the current $40 to $79. The plan, which needs the approval of City Council, would bring Denver's traffic fines in line with those in other cities throughout the metro area and bring roughly $3 million more to the city.
"We have proposed an increase in traffic fines that will match the average in the metro area. We've also eliminated the early payment discount on traffic fines," Hickenlooper said on Wednesday afternoon. "We weren't necessarily looking for money. We were trying to find out where is a place where if we are gonna increase a fee or a fine, we're making the city better or safer."
According to the Denver Court Administrator's office, in 2009 78,156 people were charged with speeding, among other offenses. That year, the city received $13.329 million from moving violation fines, including speeding, no proof of insurance, expired license plate, no driver's license, careless driving, running stop signs, disobedience to traffic signal and others.
From January through August, 56,715 drivers have faced traffic offenses, paying the city $9.162 million.
"Right now the economy is not good," said Eleazar Nava, who paid $186 to Denver for speeding. "A lot of people don't have jobs. I think it's going to be too expensive. I think it's going to be too hard for a lot of people. They don't have no money to pay these tickets."
The Denver City Council will have to vote to approve the budget and the proposed fee schedule.
Councilman-at-large Doug Linkhart said some of the proposed increased fees are too high.
"I'm OK with small increases, but with doubling fines, or even raising fines by 50 percent?" Linkhart said. "Just because the other cities around us do, I don't think that's enough justification. I want to hear more explanation. I want to hear why it would be more appropriate to have a $79 charge for a 5 mile speeding ticket."
This is the third year in a row city leaders have been forced to reduce spending as Denver has experienced its largest decline in revenues since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
"The third year of this great recession has not spared the city again, just like it has not spared the state or the country," Hickenlooper said. "Our sales tax revenue has not kept pace as our citizens spend less and other revenue streams are either flat or growing at much slower rates than they usually do."
In the 2009 budget, $86 million was cut. In the 2010 budget, $160 million in spending was reduced.
"We continue to make our government more streamlined and more effective as we look for ways to deliver more services with less resources," Hickenlooper said.
The largest savings ($15 million) comes from abolishing 158 positions in city government. More than 115 of those positions are currently vacant.
"It's worth pointing out that since 2002, we have reduced budgeted positions by over 580," Hickenlooper said.
The Mayor's Chief of Staff Roxane White estimates less than 40 current city workers will be laid off in the process and they will be given options to apply for other city jobs as well as resume assistance if need be.
Chief Financial Officer Claude Pumilia says the mayor's proposed budget will actually increase 4.1 percent in 2011 due to higher costs to the city associated with increasing a contribution to its pension fund to keep it viable, higher utility bills and operating new facilities like the Green Valley Ranch Library and the Central Park Recreation Center that come on line. Those new facilities were built with voter-approved bonds, but those bonds don't cover the day-to-day costs of running those new buildings.
Other proposed measures to balance the budget include taking $9 million from the city's reserves, leaving Denver with 10.5 percent in savings or roughly the equivalent of a month and a half of expenditures. The city normally operates with a 15 percent reserve when the economy is solid. Also, the city's Main Library will be closed on Saturday mornings and 20 recreation centers around the city will experience staggered days off to help reduce costs too.
The city's proposed main operating fund will be $896.6 million.
Click here for more details about the proposed changes.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)