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An uptick in money flowing into the city government and yet another year of Centennial remaining debt-free helped set the stage for a number of visible improvements to the city that residents will soon start to see, according to Centennial's 2018 budget.
Construction is the name of the game for the city upgrades, with work set for the city's fiber-optic network, new sidewalks in some areas, extension of the north-south Lone Tree Creek Trail and some much-needed signs along East Arapahoe Road that will tell drivers and pedestrians they're in Centennial.
Here's a look at the highlights.
Basics: Spending and revenues up
Revenue, or the money the city takes in, is estimated at about $89 million for 2018, up about $6.7 million from the 2017 adopted budget. That increase is thanks in part to higher-than-estimated flows of sales and use tax revenue and increases in the city's property values. The 2018 budget, adopted by city council on Nov. 6, includes about $92 million in spending, about $6.1 million higher than 2017's adopted budget.
Centennial will keep about $27 million in its general fund balance, which is the amount of money the city has saved up. That's roughly $4 million more than last year.
'Fiber' for healthy traffic
Construction on the city's much-discussed fiber-optic network — dozens of miles of underground cables to enhance internet capabilities and improve city services — is expected to wrap up in 2018, covered by money carried over from 2017. One use of that network — linking it to traffic signals to make lights more responsive to traffic patterns — gets backed by $1 million in the 2018 budget.
“We're hoping that in 2018, parts of it will be operational,” said Doug Farmen, finance director for the City of Centennial. “The goal is to have a lot of it done” this year.
The uses of the fiber network for traffic purposes, referred to as the Intelligent Transportation Systems, will include enabling Centennial and surrounding cities to coordinate during accidents and adjust signals, said Allison Wittern, spokeswoman for the city.
On the road
With the Interstate 25 and East Arapahoe Road update mostly complete, drivers will see construction farther inland in Centennial: workers will widen East County Line Road from South Broadway to South University Boulevard, and the budget also provides money for a traffic signal at South Yosemite Street and East Mineral Avenue. Centennial plans to look at installing traffic lights at more intersections in the future.
More than $1 million will go to new sidewalks — the city will decide early this year which areas are priorities — and the budget provides for more crack-sealing for streets, building on progress in past years.
Of course, parks and trails
Talk of funding in Centennial wouldn't be complete without a round for its parks and trails. The 2018 budget includes funding for maintenance of the Parker Jordan Centennial Open Space, Centennial Center Park and other parks and spaces.
About $2.6 million goes toward construction on the Lone Tree Creek Trail, which, when finished, will stretch from East Broncos Parkway near Centennial Airport all the way to Cherry Creek State Park. It will pass Centennial Center Park along the way and link up with several other trails at its north end. The money will fund phase two of the construction, which includes a path from East Caley Avenue to the state park.
Also included is funding for the design of the East West Trail, a gargantuan path that's expected to stretch from E-470 and East Arapahoe Road all the way to South Broadway in the northwest corner of the city.
Welcome to the city
The city plans to add more signage to indicate to people they're in Centennial, as other cities in the Denver metro area have built in the past. Such signs would sit on East Arapahoe Road in several spots, as well as at East Smoky Hill and Orchard roads in the northeast part of the city, where Aurora and unincorporated Arapahoe County occupy nearby space.
New crime lab
Centennial will devote a few hundred thousand dollars to the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office — which provides the city's law-enforcement services — toward, in part, a new investigations vehicle and new crime lab services. Aurora and Arapahoe and Douglas counties will pay about $70 million over 20 years to maintain and operate the facility, which will sit near E-470 and South Peoria Street after construction ends near mid-2018. Other municipalities within Douglas and Arapahoe counties may be able to submit evidence there for a fee.
Sales-tax revenue has seen little change lately in Centennial, or in Farmen's words, it's been “flat.” Internet sales have likely eroded sales taxes some amount, Farmen said, a problem many cities are facing.
“We haven't entertained (a property tax increase),” Farmen said, adding he doesn't think there's a need for new revenues at this point.
As a newer city — coming up on 17 years old — Centennial doesn't face large infrastructure improvement needs like older cities in the metro area. It's been able to keep its capital-funds balance flat, Farmen said.
Reserves, or as Farmen called them, the “piggy bank,” will suffice until needs start to crop up for large street or other projects in the future.
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