AURORA’S SMOKING NEW BUDGET: City puts pot, public safety resources in play for funding 2016

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AURORA | For 2016, the City of Aurora will be adding a new line item to its budget: marijuana.

City officials project Aurora will make $2.7 million in 2015 based on 18 retail stores and 5 cultivation facilities slated to be up and running by the end of this year.

“We’ve never been in the business of marijuana,” said Greg Hays, a budget and finance program manager with the city. “I can’t tell you whether that amount is going to drop or rise more. We’re projecting to hit that (amount) and more this year, and we don’t have the full 24 stores.”

So far, Aurora has 14 recreational marijuana stores and two cultivation operations open. City officials project that all 24 stores allowed under Aurora’s recreational marijuana ordinance will be open by next year. City officials said they expect to make $5.4 million in 2016 based on 24 stores and 10 cultivation operations being open.

Marijuana revenue is not part of the city’s general fund and is mostly being set aside for one-time uses.

The Aurora City Council has narrowed down what to do with the money to two one-time projects in particular. One would add another left turn lane on to southbound Interstate 225 from westbound Alameda Avenue for $1.5 million. Another project would extend the Sixth Avenue sidewalk from Del Mar Circle to Potomac Street.

The council has also proposed using $2 million to issue bonds for a much-needed recreation center in southeast Aurora.

“I think there’s a nexus between recreation centers and marijuana,” said Councilman Bob LeGare. “If you give kids something to do that’s productive when they’re not in school, there’s less of a chance they’re going to be smoking pot in back alleys.”

City Council members would also like to see $1.5 million go to homeless services, and have another $680,000 set aside for Nexus, a program supporting nonprofits that provides a substantial service to law enforcement.

Hays said the city hasn’t yet felt the impacts of a controversial tax voters in Adams County approved last fall that allows the county to collect a 3-percent sales tax on top of what the city imposes. Aurora currently imposes a 2-percent sales tax on retail marijuana products, and a 5-percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana sold in the city.

“It’s hard to tell whether it’s affecting us or not. We only have nine months of data,” he said. The only Aurora store operating in Adams County affected by the tax so far is Terrapin Care Station at 11900 East 33rd Avenue.

2016 PROPOSED BUDGET

The 2016 proposed budget for the general fund is $305.7 million, up 5 percent from the 2015 budget of $291 million.

The 2016 proposed budget calls for big increases in Aurora’s public safety spending, in part by adding eight police officers for administrative duties and to support field operations. It also calls for seven more fire medics.

The proposed budget would also add three new fire stations at a total cost of $24 million. The city aims to replace Fire Station 5 and construct a new fire station to serve the future Gaylord Hotel and Rockies Conference Center near Denver International Airport.

The proposed budget also calls for three more city attorneys: one for the city’s Criminal Division, one for the Police and one for Water.

The proposed budget calls for transportation improvements in the city through investing in Aurora’s roads as well as its bike and pedestrian paths.

“I think there’s a nexus between recreation centers and marijuana,” said Councilman Bob LeGare. “If you give kids something to do that’s productive when they’re not in school, there’s less of a chance they’re going to be smoking pot in back alleys.”

The city is proposing to spend $18.5 million on major street improvements, $9.3 million on Transportation Improvement Program grant matches and $1.5 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

Other proposed projects include $3.6 million to replace the Municipal Justice Center’s roof and $2.1 million for an Aurora Hills pump station.

Water projects make up the lion’s share of the city’s infrastructure improvements with $69.5 million worth of projects proposed for 2016. Those include improving the city’s vast water storage and pipeline system as well as spending $21.6 million to expand it.

Other projects included as part of the 2016 budget are extending East 6th Avenue to E-470, installing Portland-style restrooms at one yet-to-be-determined light rail station for $750,000, promoting retail and marketing for the Colfax Avenue arts district for $2.5 million and providing Aurora Police with a shooting range.

The proposed budget also aims to spend $5.9 on median improvements and extend library hours at Mission Viejo, Martin Luther King, and Tallyn’s Reach libraries by eight hours per week. Other proposed projects include adding a computer center in Ward IV, expanding the size of Hoffman Heights library and adding radio frequency ID tags to books at Aurora libraries.

The proposed budget also looks to add two new full-time employees to the Parks, Recreation and Open Space department to manage the revamped Aurora Sports Park. The city would also like to hire a coordinator for the homeless.

With construction booming in Aurora, the city is proposing to add 26 people to its Development Review Fund in response to a sharp increase in the need for building inspections and permitting. Aurora City Council members are also seeing a small bump in their monthly stipend, which is proposed to increase from $225 to $360 as part of the 2016 budget.

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Socialized Welfare
Socialized Welfare
6 years ago

Anyone purchasing cannabis in Aurora is getting shafted. Tiny bags of dry, tasteless weed sold by ONE company. With no competition there is no reason to lower prices, just worry about the greed. Unfortunately, nobody in weed industry went to business school. The key to commercial success is driving DOWN the price of your product, why do you think alcohol is dirt cheap? The government will make up tax revenue on increased volume. Cut weed prices in half, you will sell double the weed, it ain’t rocket science folks. Oh yeah….first!

Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago

Pot is a discretionary purchase for most folks, so saving a few bucks is not high on the list. The convenience of going to a neighborhood store is quite important for many who rely on public transportation.

withersteen
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Hardhat

I like your analogy of cannabis to coffee culture!

withersteen
6 years ago

The price of legal weed has dropped dramatically the past year. It is about 1/4 the street price in such places as Austin, TX.

$100 ounces of flower, $45 ounces of shake, Wax at $35 a gram… cheap and good. Plus tax, which I happily pay.

R E
R E
6 years ago

If we are doing one-time use updates it may be a good idea to put in uniform fencing along 6th avenue next year. It would make the section of town more aesthetically pleasing. We definitely need to approve aesthetics as much as possible.