Boulder’s 2021 budget is 7.7% smaller, with 70 fewer jobs

Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 (Updated Tuesday, Sept. 8)

Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam is recommending a 2021 spending plan that is 7.7% smaller than this year’s, with $28.6 million in reductions and 70 fewer employees. City council will consider the proposed budget Tuesday at a study session.

Among major departments, some of the biggest cuts, percentage-wise, were to transportation, which could lose nearly a third of their dollars. The list of reduced or eliminated transportation services is long, including median and multi-use path maintenance, street sweeping and weekend HOP bus service. The library, which abandoned a push for more dedicated funding amid the pandemic, saw cuts greater than 15%

Both were hard-hit by furloughs, layoffs and budget reductions earlier this year as the city scrambled to patch gaps left by falling sales tax revenue. The library temporarily lost 72% of staff as locations shuttered; transportation had $2 million stripped from its spending, an 8% decrease.

A similar situation could occur next year, staff warned in notes to council. The budget is based on a projected 11% decrease in sales and use tax, the biggest source of discretionary city funding.

“If revenue falls far short of forecast,” staff wrote, “the city will make mid-year budget reductions again in 2021 as it did in 2020.”

Police spending, which has been a subject of intense interest in the wake of national protests over extrajudicial killings of black men and women, will shrink by $1.8 million, 4.8%. That includes $657,990 of new spending on upgrades to body and in-car cameras, tasers and radio equipment and an expanded red light camera program.

As spending on other services shrinks, BPD is now the single-biggest expense in the city’s operating budget (excluding utilities) claiming 14% of all dollars and 25% of the all-purpose general fund.

The police department will have eight fewer employees in 2021 than 2020 but lost only 3.5 jobs — a mental health response team moved under Housing and Human Services. Boulder PD gained one new hire (a policy, training and accreditation manager), and 13 jobs will be held vacant.

While most city employees will not receive merit raises, members of the police union will have their salaries boosted by 3.5%, as required by a previously negotiated contract.

The city as a whole shed 55.88 full-time positions and will keep 35.25 open throughout 2021 to save money. Only 15 of those positions were currently filled, resulting in layoffs. Just over 20 positions were added, including 10 fixed-term hires, for a total planned full-time workforce of 1,375.83. There were 1,456.36 FTE approved for 2020, though 56 were laid off in June due to COVID budget cuts.

This budget was the first to be run though an equity filter, though it’s unclear what that process entails. Friday was a furlough day, so city staff were unavailable to answer questions.

“All departments applied an equity lens to these difficult decisions, asking themselves how proposed solutions would impact communities of color and others who may be facing longstanding or increased challenges,” Brautigam wrote in the five-page city manager’s message that precedes the budget. “Some proposed cuts were not accepted as a result of this analysis.”

An equity specialist in the city manager’s office was among eliminated jobs. It’s unclear if that position was filled or vacant.

Below, find more detailed information on spending and staff. Find the full 2021 recommended budget here and the 2020 approved budget here.

City council will hold public hearings on the budget Oct. 6 and Oct. 20.

City council meeting: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8. Watch online or on Channel 8.

Total budget: $341,083,592
Operating: $271,657,823 (-5.98% from 2020)
General fund: $120,015,887 (-9.3% from 2020)
Dedicated funds: $151,641,936 (-3.2% from 2020)

Spending by department and % change from 2020 
Red = decrease, green = increase
City manager’s office**: $1,841,306 -41.2%
Facilities and fleet**: $16,932,815 -35.2%
Transportation and mobility**: $31,525,098 -29.25%
City clerk’s office: $808,803 -19.3%
Planning & development services**: $13,033,434 -16.5%
Library & Arts: $9,051,680 -50.6%*
(without NoBo dollars in 2020, operating decrease is 15.6%)
General governance: $3,198,298 -14.4%
Finance: $10,378,726 -12.4%
Municipal court: $2,050,646 -11.3%
Climate initiatives: $5,757,701 -9.7%
City council: $409,250 -9.3%
Housing and Human Services
^: $19,854,114 -8.3%
Fire-rescue: $21,165,127 -7.9%
Police: $36,786,852 -4.8%
Human resources: $4,417,549 -4.2%
City attorney’s office: $3,768,645, -3.8%
Community vitality: $11,821,268 -3.8%
Parks & rec: $29,474,806 -0.54%

OSMP: $28,306,199 +0.11
Innovation & Tech: $14,395,083 +3.2%
Utilities: $86,101,630 +10.5%
Communications**: $2,548,242 +16.3%

*The 2020 library budget included a temporary increase in funding for building the North Boulder Library. Excluding those dollars, actual cuts were 15.6% percent of the library and arts budget.
**These departments were restructured in 2021, which in some cases affects the year-over-year comparison. For example, the engagement team moved from the city manager’s office to the communication department.
^HHS often receives significant supplemental funding through the Adjustments to Base process. These adjustments have averaged $22 million over the last three years.

Boulder Beat

Share of total city spending (excluding utilities), 2021 vs. 2020
Police: 14% (2021) 13% (2020)
Transportation: 12% / 15%
Internal services: 12% / 10%
OSMP: 11% / 10%
Parks & Rec: 11% / 10%
Fire-rescue: 8% / 7%
HHS: 8% / 7%
Planning: 5% / 2%
General governance: 5% / 6%
Community Vitality: 5% / 4%
Library & Arts: 3% / 4%
Facilities & Fleet: 3% (new department)
Climate initiatives: 2% (no change)
Municipal Court: 1% (no change)

Courtesy City of Boulder

Share of general fund, 2021 vs. 2020
Police: 25% (2021) 24% (2020)
Internal Services: 19% / 16%
Fire-rescue: 14% / 13%
General governance: 8% / 11%
HHS: 6% (no change)
Library & Arts: 5% / 6%
Facilities & Fleet: 3% (new department)
Parks & Rec: 3% (no change)
Climate Initiatives: 3% (no change)
Community Vitality: 2% (no change)
Municipal Court: 1% (no change)
Planning: 1% / <1%
Transportation: <1% / 1%

Courtesy City of Boulder

Staffing changes by department, 2020-2021
FTE = Full-time employees
City manager’s office: 9 FTE -40%
Planning & development: 88.4 FTE -20.7%
Community Vitality: 40.88 FTE -14.9%
Climate initiatives: 18 FTE -14.3%
Library & Arts: 68.75 FTE -14.3%
Parks & Rec: 125.75 FTE -13.4%
Innovation & Tech: 39 FTE -11.4%
Municipal Court: 16.35 FTE -10.9%
Finance: 42 FTE -10.6%
Housing and human services: 44.25 FTE -9.2%
Transportation and mobility: 77.02 FTE -5.8%
Human Resources: 22 FTE -4.4%
City Attorney’s office: 27 FTE -3.6%
Police: 280.6 FTE -3%*
Fire: 122 FTE -1.6%
Utilities: 168.19 FTE -0.6%
City clerk’s office: 4 FTE (no change)
City council: 4 FTE (no change)
Open space: 126.35 FTE +0.8%
Facilities and fleet: 37.54 FTE +9.1%
Communication: 17.75 FTE +9.2%
*No change in # of patrol officers (104)

Boulder Beat
Boulder Beat

(Author’s note: This story has been updated with information related to the average adjustment to base for housing and human services and corrections from city finance staff.)

— Shay Castle,, @shayshinecastle

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