Pandemic impact on Centennial's savings expected to be small

Centennial working on plans to delay some projects

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The total amount of money the City of Centennial would have saved up through the years was expected to come out to $81 million after the city's spending in 2020, according to last year's estimate in the city's 2020 budget.

The most recent estimate — even amid the coronavirus pandemic ravaging Colorado's economy — shows the city should still come out with about $79 million saved up, according to City Manager Matt Sturgeon.

At 19 years old, Centennial has long stuck to a strategy of avoiding debt. It contracts with outside entities — both public and private — for many services, such as public infrastructure and law enforcement.

That “contract model” of government and the city's budgeting and investment practices have allowed city council to avoid making major service cuts, and to absorb projected revenue shortfalls, Sturgeon said in an April statement.

The small projected impact on Centennial's savings doesn't mean the pandemic won't shake up finances: The city is estimating “very significant revenue loss” across all aspects of its budget, Sturgeon said. As with other city governments, sales-tax revenue shortfalls are taking their toll.

But “the city has reduced operating costs where possible and reviewed all 2020 projects and made a recommendation to city council on what projects to defer,” Sturgeon said.

City staff have recommended to delay roughly $12 million in infrastructure and open space projects, according to a city document.

Here's a look at how financial changes will play out for Centennial.

Traffic projects take a hit

Centennial's delayed infrastructure projects are expected to include:

• Widening of East Orchard Road from South Franklin Street to the High Line Canal

• Widening of East County Line Road from South University Boulevard to Broadway

• Improvements on Broncos Parkway near South Parker Road

• More than $1 million in sidewalk improvements

• Two roadway corridor planning projects

• Signal light projects where there isn't a safety concern

The city also expects to reduce its 2020 program to rehabilitate streets by $3.8 million. In all, $7.8 million in street-related project funding would be interrupted. More adjustments to the city's spending could come later in the year.

The city does not anticipate any decreases in city services, aside from the reduction in that spending on street rehab, Sturgeon said.

"Essential services (law enforcement, snow/ice control, road repair, signal light maintenance, etc.) continue to be provided," a city news release said.

Other infrastructure, open space delays

The city also expects to defer projects regarding city identity signage, information technology (IT) systems and other infrastructure matters, worth a total of nearly $2 million. Among those is work related to the master plan for the city's Intelligent Transportation System, an effort to track traffic levels and adjust traffic signal timing accordingly.

Open space projects the city may defer include work on Centennial Center Park, the Lone Tree Creek Trail and Fremont Trail. An Orchard Road crossing and a Big Dry Creek undercrossing at Easter Avenue are listed as budget reductions rather than deferment. In all, $2.7 million in open space projects could be interrupted.

Propping up business community

The city isn't looking at ways to recover lost tax revenue, but it is considering ways to help its business community, according to Sturgeon.

In April, Centennial announced a new loan available to the city's small businesses to provide relief during the COVID-19 crisis.

To create the Centennial Small Business Loan Fund, the city invested $200,000, and the Colorado Enterprise Fund — a nonprofit lending source — contributed an additional $20,000, according to a news release.

Other local government entities

Centennial's partner government agencies, such as the Arapahoe Libraries district, South Metro Fire Rescue and the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, likely will see some impacts, but they rely on different funding structures than the city.

“Arapahoe County and South Metro Fire (Rescue) are largely funded by property taxes,” Sturgeon said. Property taxes also are one of the funding sources for Arapahoe Libraries, according to the district's website.

Sheriff's office

The sheriff's office is a special case because Centennial pays a large portion of its budget to that office, which also provides law enforcement service for unincorporated Arapahoe County areas. The city in its 2019 budget allocated $29 million for the sheriff's office.

"The city has an intergovernmental agreement with Arapahoe County to provide law enforcement services through the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office. That agreement and its funding to provide these services has not changed,” Sturgeon said.

The city does not fund Arapahoe Libraries or South Metro Fire, Sturgeon said.

Avoiding furloughs

As city government employees in municipalities around the Denver metro area face temporary layoffs, Centennial may emerge without having to furlough staff.

“The city does not expect to furlough or lay off any city staff in 2020,” Sturgeon said.

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