BY BOB DOYLE
GREENWOOD VILLAGE RESIDENT
I read with great interest this past week’s Villager article by Freda Miklin on Greenwood Village’s 2021 budget surplus of $62 million, and growing.
While saving for unexpected events is necessary, it appears to me that our budget surplus reflects a lack of willingness to address community needs more than a desire for additional reserves. The city has a number of reserves which constitute about a third of the current surplus to cover unplanned events. This leaves nearly $40 million sitting in the bank which is earmarked for nothing in particular. This can be compared to the city’s annual budget of around $50 million, with revenues generated mostly by sales taxes through GV businesses. These revenues were affected in 2020 by the pandemic but not sufficiently to affect the City’s reserves or budget surplus.
Select Council Committees, comprised solely of council members with no real citizen involvement, are currently looking at expanded higher-speed broadband and pedestrian access to the Arapahoe Entertainment District. They could potentially spend the entire surplus on these endeavors but hopefully that will not be the case.
With a median household income of $127,500, people who use higher-speed broadband in Greenwood Village likely can pay for it themselves, maybe with a little financial seed money from the city to construct the basic backbone of the system from which a private enterprise can build out the system and charge users to recover the costs.
As for pedestrian access to the Arapahoe Entertainment District, while desirable, it will be hard to achieve with the current strip-mall configuration. Also, sales taxes from affected businesses usually pay for such improvements but in this case the city has given away much of the sales tax revenues for years to come to new businesses in this special district. I don’t see anything, short of a massive demolition and rebuild project that will turn this area into a pedestrian friendly experience like one gets at the Streets at SouthGlenn. Within limits, I support these two endeavors; I just wish the City Council was actively working to support other community needs as well.
In recent years, the city has considered a number of projects and rejected them largely because of cost , including a solar power system at City Hall, many more EV replacements for city vehicles, a residential pick-up service for compost wastes, paying for Landmark Towers’ trash and recycling pick-up (as they do for other condos and townhomes), a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plan, including around Cherry Creek Campus and other schools and parks, streaming city council meetings, a last-mile autonomous commuter bus from Orchard and Arapahoe Light Rail Stations and capacity improvements to East Orchard Road near I-25. All of these actions and more could be paid for with some of the budget surplus.
I believe we can do so much more with the surplus tax revenues than just place them in the bank. We can fund projects that will materially improve the livability of our city and that are a smart investment now. I request members of the City Council to consider using some of the budget surplus to support new initiatives like those listed above and encourage all Greenwood Village residents to speak out on what you see our city’s future needs to be.