BY FREDA MIKLIN
On September 21, at the annual review of its proposed budget for the coming year, the Greenwood Village City Council heard from City Manager John Jackson that, as of August 31, GV is ahead of its projected 2021 revenues and its operating expenses are less than what it anticipated. As a result, he expects the city, which begins each year with a balanced budget, to end 2021 with a $6.7 million surplus.
On December 31, 2022, GV expects to have a total fund balance (the amount of money remaining in the bank after all expenses have been paid) of $50.7 million. That includes almost $2 million in 2021 revenue and the same amount in 2022 revenue that GV was allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for cities to use as they see fit. Options include helping needy citizens and/or businesses and making up for city revenue budget shortfalls (see article on page X).
The proposed 2022 budget points to GV’s dependency on sales and use tax, which comprises over 60 percent of its revenues, “making the organization especially… susceptible to patterns in consumer and commercial spending.” Finance Director Shawn Cordsen told the city council that although there has been less spending in restaurants, city revenues are benefitting from “more spending on technology that allows people to work remotely.” He also noted a large increase in sales tax collections “from remote sales.” He never said the word Amazon, but he didn’t have to. Anyone who orders from Amazon is well aware they have been collecting local sales tax for years. The increase in remote sales since the pandemic has no doubt been a boon to the coffers of this city and many others.
Cordsen talked about the impact of the building material use tax, which is a small part of GV’s budget but directly reflects the level of development in the city. He noted that expected revenue from the building material use tax in 2022 is below that of 2021 due to less anticipated development. Less development leads to lower future taxes. Similarly, the city’s occupational privilege tax (head tax), while comprising only four percent of total revenues, carries with it implications for sales tax collections. Before the pandemic, Greenwood Village’s permanent population of 15,000 quadrupled to 60,000 every weekday due to employees at places like Charter Communications, Fascore LLC (Empower), CoBank and Fidelity Funds coming to work in GV from Denver and other locations in the metro area, then going home. While they were here, they ate, shopped, and played. With so many employees working from home now, Cordsen said that it is as if, “Some employers are essentially moving out of the city.” As City Councilmember Jerry Presley pointed out, “People who don’t come to Greenwood Village to work in offices don’t go out to lunch and they don’t shop at Target or Home Depot.”
One revenue category that has drawn attention in recent years is the money generated by automated red-light tickets in the city. A few years ago, the city council said that this activity would not be a profit-maker but it has become one. To address that, the council committed to set aside those profits in a separate fund to use for traffic safety improvements. By the end of 2022, that fund is projected to have a balance of $2.35 million, meaning it is generating revenue faster than the council can identify traffic safety measures on which to spend it. At the budget meeting, City Councilmember Tom Dougherty asked Dustin Varney, GV’s police chief, if the city was correlating the data to determine if the red-light camera tickets were having the desired effect, meaning, were they causing offenders to change their behavior? Varney said there was some evidence of that at the corner of Orchard Road and Quebec Street but not enough to warrant removing the cameras. The police chief pointed to a decrease in the severity of accidents overall where red-light cameras are used.
On the expense side of the ledger, Suzanne Moore, Parks, Trails and Recreation coordinator announced that Greenwood Village Day would finally return in 2022, after a two-year hiatus, but it would be scaled down to 50 percent of its cost. Moore explained that the savings would come from starting the event at 4:00 pm instead of 2:00 pm, eliminating art instructors, having fewer art tents and only one band playing music. With an anticipated $6.7 million surplus in 2022, it was unclear why the budget for this highly popular event needed to be cut by $78,000. No council member asked Moore that question so she did not address it.
When the council looked at the list of 18 new vehicles planned to be purchased in 2022 at a cost exceeding $1 million, Councilmembers Dougherty and Anne Ingebretsen inquired whether the city was looking at electric vehicles and/or hybrids. Public Works Director Jeremy Hanak said, “We’re integrating them,” to which Ingebretsen responded, “Are we looking at hybrids and electric vehicles or are we buying them?” Hanak said, “We have two patrol vehicles and we are buying a pick-up truck next year.” On a hunch, The Villager asked Hanak if that was perhaps the new much anticipated electric Ford F-150 pick-up truck. He said it was. On the idea of the city buying electric or hybrid vehicles, Councilmember Dave Bullock advised Hanak, “I think it’s prudent to move slowly.”
On the topic of tax rebates at the Arapahoe Entertainment District, it was reported that GV expected to give $350,000 of its sales tax collections in 2022 to two businesses to repay them for the cost of improving their private properties. Those businesses are Pindustry and the new food hall just opened on Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, The Grange. If both businesses’ sales over the next four years continue at the same level, the city will end up paying them $1,050,000 from its sales tax collections at those businesses. During that discussion, Cordsen shared that the sales tax rebates at the Landmark development, which have been used to pay for bonds sold for public improvements, including the underground public parking lot, will end in 2027.
The police chief asked the city council to provide a second mental health professional to work with officers as a co-responder in 2022 on mental health calls, noting the current co-responder is enormously helpful to citizens and in saving police officers’ time. The person who has been working with GVPD for five years has only been available for day shifts. Varney noted that police officers receive many calls during evenings and nights that would be better handled with a co-responder. The council took steps to make it possible to fulfill that request immediately using available funds in the 2021 budget in addition to adding the position to the 2022 budget.
Ingebretsen noted that the number of crimes against property had jumped from 1,086 in 2020 to 2,100 in 2021 but were projected to decrease to 1,593 in 2022. When she asked the chief why he expected that reduction in 2022, Varney said, “We are using new tactics that are working to apprehend criminals.” One tool that was discussed was a license plate reader being used to spot vehicles of wanted criminals in an area of GV where property crime is very high. Varney shared that in the first seven months of 2021, using that tool, GVPD had gotten 1,760 hits on license plates for which there were felony arrest warrants outstanding for the vehicle owner.
The city council is scheduled to adopt the proposed budget at its regular meeting on October 4. It is listed in the agenda as a public hearing, thus residents or any member of the public can attend and be heard on any aspect of it if they wish to do so.