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posted: 12/10/2012 11:13 AM

Aurora budgets to fund library, canine unit

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Funding for a new main library is bumping up expenditures in Aurora's proposed 2013 budget, which officials say otherwise holds the line on spending, maintains city services and adds a couple new programs and employees.

The $396 million budget is set for a city council vote at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

It includes $21.5 million to be spent on a library building and technology project; $260,000 for a canine unit in the police department; $150,000 for the first year of a city branding campaign; $107,500 for a forensic examiner and $95,000 for a grant writer.

Mayor Tom Weisner said library project expenses and police and firefighter pension costs are increasing spending, but the city's operational fund did not increase.

Finance Director Brian Caputo said this is the second year in a row in which arriving at a balanced budget did not require major cuts, as were needed to plug $19 million and $18 million gaps in the 2010 and 2011 budgets.

Here's a look at some of the new expenses proposed in the 2013 budget.

Library project

A $30 million library improvement project includes a new main library downtown, satellite locations and technology upgrades. It was approved in September and $21.5 million is set aside for the project in next year's budget.

Caputo said a $19.2 million loan and a $10.8 million state grant the Aurora Public Library expects to receive will fund the project.

Branding campaign

Members of a business roundtable Weisner created last year suggested the city start a campaign to revitalize the area's image.

"There have been enough changes in the city that it's time to look at how we brand ourselves and how we market ourselves," Weisner said.

The 2013 budget includes $150,000 for the first year of what is planned as a four-year branding campaign. Weisner said it would begin with hiring a branding professional to gather data and work with the community to develop possible themes.

Canine unit

Without a canine unit of their own, Aurora police have borrowed a service dog from another agency about 150 times a year in the past two years, Police Chief Greg Thomas said.

Spending $260,000 to create a canine unit with four service dogs and four officers trained as handlers will help the department more efficiently search for drugs, weapons and missing people, Thomas said.

If funding for the canine unit is approved, Thomas said Aurora's new police dogs could be in action by next summer.

Two new staffers

Since 2008, Weisner said Aurora has reduced its workforce by the equivalent of 188.5 full-time jobs. But two new positions are proposed in the 2013 budget: a forensic examiner in the police department and a grant writer in the finance department.

The forensic examiner's focus will be analyzing electronic data such cellphone and online communication records.

"Right now, we're using sworn officers to receive, collate and understand all kinds of digital information and evidence in multiple cases," Weisner said. "It makes sense to have a non-sworn professional doing that kind of work because they should be very effective at it."

The grant writer will help Aurora push for state, federal and private money in what Weisner said is a more competitive grant environment.

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