COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Colorado Springs budget battle may be over, but some City Council members worry a legal one may take its place.
Colorado Springs City Council voted Wednesday to uphold most of Mayor Steve Bach's line-item vetoes to the 2014 budget.
"I think the mayor won today," said Council President Keith King. "He won five out of six votes on changing the budget."
Council made changes to $1.5 million of Bach's $394 million 2014 budget proposal -- less than 1 percent -- before approving it last week. Bach vetoed nearly all of the changes the next day, including council's vote to increase spending on City Parks watering and allotting less money to the Colorado Springs Police Department, Convention and Visitor Bureau and Regional Business Alliance and eliminating the newly-created deputy director of Office of Emergency Management position.
Council upheld most of the vetoes, meaning the police department, the Convention and Visitor Bureau and the Regional Business Alliance will each receive the full funding stated in Bach's initial proposal. Council will also allow Bach to create the new OEM position.
The vote for full funding to the CVB was met with cheers from members of the tourism industry who attended Wednesday's session. Several of them spoke before the vote, urging council not to cut their funding. The tourism industry employs more than 13,000 people in Colorado Springs.
"It's a great week and it's a great vote of confidence for all of those who work in the tourism industry here in Colorado Springs," said Doug Price, president/CEO of the CVB.
King said that while the council supports promoting tourism, he hopes it sent a clear message to the CVB to spend more money on marketing and less on salaries.
Council members overrode two of Bach's vetoes, including one to the budget and a separate ordinance.
Council overrode Bach's veto to increase spending on City Parks and watering, meaning about $1.3 million will be taken from the city's reserve fund and designated to watering in parks. Last week, Bach criticized the council for wanting to pull money from the "rainy day" fund, particularly while the city recovers from "tourism impacts of two devastating wildfires and a series of damaging floods."
Council also overrode Bach's veto of an appropriations ordinance that was approved by the council along with the 2014 budget. Some council members worry the move will land the city's executive and legislative branch in a heated legal dispute. Bach vetoed an ordinance that would appropriate 12 budget departments instead of the current five. Bach called the ordinance "political" and said it was aimed at diminishing the mayor's power.
"There's been the objection that this restrains the mayor. Well, of course it does. That's the point of the city charter," said Councilman Andy Pico. Pico pointed out that the charter also restricts City Council's power and holds both branches accountable to the people.
Three council members, Jan Martin, Jill Gaebler and Val Snider, voted to uphold Bach's veto, saying that while they supported designating more budget departments, they worried overriding Bach's veto would land them in a legal dispute with the mayor. Bach has said that creating more departments violates city charter because, according to him, that is up to the mayor.
"He stated that he would never move money between departments unless it were in case of emergency," said Gaebler of Bach. "I believe this is a man of integrity. Say what you will about him, but I trust that he would never do that."
"After today, a legal process will ensue," said Snider. "Time will tell what turns out to be best for the city of Colorado Springs."
But according to Council President King and several other council members, appropriating 12 departments is exactly what is written in the charter, and therefore, they should not be worried about Bach's office waging a legal battle.
"If he chooses to do that, that's not our choice," said King. "I think the charter is clear on the 12 departments."
"This is not about power for council," said Councilman Joel Miller. "This is about transparency and accountability of the government to the people."
Mayor Bach will respond to the council's decisions at a media briefing Thursday morning.