This tax-averse city is about to learn what it looks and feels like when budget cuts slash services most Americans consider part of the urban fabric. More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday. The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops—dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.
The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter. Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that. Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.
City recreation centers, indoor and outdoor pools, and a handful of museums will close for good March 31 unless they find private funding to stay open. Buses no longer run on evenings and weekends. The city won't pay for any street paving, relying instead on a regional authority that can meet only about 10 percent of the need. "I guess we're going to find out what the tolerance level is for people," said businessman Chuck Fowler, who is helping lead a private task force brainstorming for city budget fixes. "It's a new day."
Voters in November said an emphatic no to a tripling of property tax that would have restored $27.6 million to the city's $212 million general fund budget. Fowler and many other residents say voters don't trust city government to wisely spend a general tax increase and don't believe the current cuts are the only way to balance a budget.
"Now all the teabagger wingnuts get to see exactly what happens when you forget that taxes are necessary for government services," says Slog tipper Ryan. "Although the thought of Focus on the Family HQ surrounded by dead, trash-covered grass, with no streetlights, and reduced police and fire coverage—that just warms my heart."