13 October 2009

Aurora Libraries Face Life or Death Vote This Month

Denver's library system is facing cuts of about 10% this year, including one branch library in its extensive system, and all Sunday hours. Aurora, Colorado's municipal library system is in a more dire situation, as part of $14 million of cuts in the City's budget for 2010, bringing it the general fund budget to $231 million.

A decrease in sales-tax revenue and money from construction and building fees are the biggest reasons for the cutbacks.

The City Council agreed to cut about 135 positions for 2010, with about 50 of those positions now filled. The rest were already vacant.

About 40 people who work at libraries will be cut and three of the seven libraries could be shuttered unless voters approve a property-tax hike next month to stave off the closures. . . .

Twenty-two positions will be cut from Parks, Recreation and Open Space.

Also, three swimming pools will no longer be open; two of them had already been shut down this summer. The pool at the former Fitzsimons Army base will remain closed as planned for the new Veterans Affairs Hospital. The Village Green and Pheasant Run pools will not be back next year, either.

Local governments has highly cyclic finances because so many are highly reliant of sales taxes, one of the most cyclic forms of tax revenue. Property tax revenues are far more stable, and income tax revenues are usually somewhere in between.

Aurora is a first ring suburb of Denver with a population of 319,057 in 2008, making it the state's third largest municipality after Denver (#1) and Colorado Springs (#2). While it is home to the historic (and economically troubled) Old Town Aurora neighborhood, for the most part the city consists of stereotypical suburban tract housing, large apartment complexes, strip malls and conventional malls. The rapid residential development that fueled the city from the 1940s onward started to cool in the 1990s, and the housing bust of the financial crisis hasn't helped it usually vigorous new home construction market.

The city's crowned jewel is the Fitzsimons medical center to which several regional hospitals and medical facilities (e.g., the Children's Hospital and University of Colorado Hospital) were relocated from Denver. A new Veteran's Administration Hospital is also planned for the complex.

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