A National League of Cities survey shows the nation's cities will end 2012 with a 3.9 percent decrease in municipal revenue when compared with 2011. The news is much better in Colorado, where the Colorado Municipal League's 2013 "State of our Cities and Towns" report lists 47 percent of Colorado municipalities closing out 2012 with increased revenue over 2011 and 31 percent with no major change in revenue.
Interestingly, this is nearly an exact reversal from three years ago when 46 percent reported lower revenue. Eighty-three percent of large Front Range cities report increased revenue for 2012 as compared with 54 percent on the Western Slope and 18 percent on the Eastern Plains.
Municipalities continue to budget conservatively:
• 30 percent have again cut street maintenance.
• 11 percent will reduce police budgets.
• Employee health care costs, unfunded street and water/wastewater projects and public safety needs are listed among the top challenges in drafting 2013 budgets.
Infrastructure: Infrastructure is at the core of municipalities, and the inability to meet these needs is concerning. The municipal legacy of the Great Recession will surely be the growing backlog of infrastructure needs:
• 59 percent report a backlog of street projects.
• 33 percent have drinking water or sewer projects that need funding.
The price tag for needed water and wastewater infrastructure in Colorado has increased from $4.5 billion in 2011 to $7.5 billion in 2013.
Economic development: Throughout the recession, municipalities have been working to improve their local economies by investing in economic development activities.
According to the report, 88 percent of municipalities participate in one or more economic development activities. Soaring to the top of the list of activities is the promotion of special events, such as beer festivals, classic car shows, bicycle races and art festivals.
Tourism promotion and a variety of tax and fee incentives remain popular efforts.
Small business grants, waiving fees for business expansion, and redevelopment projects are all aimed at strengthening the economy from within.
The work of municipal government appears to be paying off: Colorado added more than 40,000 jobs in 2012 as we continue to work ourselves out of the Great Recession.
To view the entire State of our Cities & Towns report, visit www.cml.org/state_of_our_cities_and_towns.aspx
CML is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 1923 and represents the interests of 267 cities and towns. For more information on the Colorado Municipal League, visit www.cml.org or call (303) 831-6411.