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City budget in deeper trouble?

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Community centers might be at risk again

City councilors are saying that the gap in the 2009 budget is rapidly widening as tax collection data from December sales is being calculated. Though final numbers weren't available as of press time, Vice Mayor Larry Small said Tuesday that preliminary numbers show sales-and-use tax collections were down 16 percent from December 2007. He estimates that could lead to a shortfall of around $20 million, or more than $3 million beyond the "worst-case scenario" of $16.8 million described in late January.

"We're going to have start looking at everything now I'm thinking police and fire," Small says reluctantly. "We left the community centers open, and now I'm not sure we'll be able to do that anymore."

Councilor Jerry Heimlicher says that with this large of a shortfall, "You're cutting into services that people rely on for their livelihood and safety." Heimlicher says he only wanted public safety and community and senior centers on the table as a last resort.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, some councilors hadn't yet heard about the expanding shortfall. That included Darryl Glenn, who said he wasn't surprised.

"It kind of seems like this number keeps ballooning and ballooning like our [national] stimulus plan," Glenn said with a laugh. JAS

South Nevada project on hold

According to City Councilor Jerry Heimlicher, developer Jim Rhue will put off his big plans for South Nevada until the fall of 2011. Rhue is planning to build the upscale, 75,000-square-foot Broadmoor Gateway Pavilions along the street's east side, between St. Elmo Avenue and the Wendy's restaurant at 1541 S. Nevada Ave. He was hoping to anchor the project with a health-food store, plus high-end retail and dining.

Rhue's plan to start building soon and open the center in fall 2010 was derailed when he couldn't secure leases from retail businesses. "That's due to the skimming back of all the major chain stores," Rhue says. "They had their worst Christmas season in 40 years." JAS

A whole new D-11

Even as it's choosing a new superintendent, the School District 11 board is finalizing a plan to radically alter its schools.

Currently, the district's "School Utilization Plan" is recommending either closing Wasson High School or only keeping a small performing arts magnet there. Part or all of the building could house administration offices, adult education and children's music programs.

Irving Middle School would close. Ivywild, Buena Vista, Longfellow, Pike, Whittier, Adams and Jefferson Elementary Schools would either be sold, leased or given a new purpose. All elementary school boundaries would be redrawn.

North Middle School would become an international baccalaureate magnet school serving kindergarten through eighth grade. West Middle School would serve preschool through eighth grade, and would house the SAIL program for gifted children. Washington Elementary would become a magnet school for Montessori. Many other schools would see new kids.

The plan is expected to save the district money as enrollment dwindles. But the thought of losing neighborhood schools has saddened and enraged parents. Public comment on the latest ideas is set for 6:30 p.m., Feb. 11 at Coronado High School, 1590 W. Fillmore St. The board will make a final decision at its regular Feb. 25 board meeting set for at 6:30 p.m. in the Tesla auditorium, 2560 International Circle.

Meanwhile, D-11 has three finalists to replace retiring superintendent Terry Bishop: Michael Poore, a D-11 deputy superintendent; Nicholas Gledich, chief operations officer at Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla.; and James Ray, a consultant and former superintendent in residence for the Stupski Foundation in San Francisco. The three will be interviewed in public at 6 p.m., Feb. 9. The public can question the candidates at 6 p.m., Feb. 10. Both events are at Tesla. JAS

Grace case goes to court

The separation took place way back in May 2007, when the Rev. Donald Armstrong led his congregation out of the Episcopal Church of the United States family while staying physically rooted in the historic Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish property at 601 N. Tejon St. But as is often the case, it's taken a while for divorce proceedings to begin.

Finally, a civil trial begins Feb. 10 in district court to determine whether Armstrong and Co. rightfully own the church building, or whether it belongs to congregants who stuck with the U.S. church and have been worshipping elsewhere. The trial is expected to last six or seven weeks, and further legal proceedings will likely be necessary. AL

Medical reality closes clinic

For nearly two years in their current location, doctors at the Centennial Health clinic have made a stand for better care by taking more time with their patients and opening their practice to Medicare recipients. Now, the clinic is closing.

"That model doesn't work in today's economic reality," says Doris Ralston, executive director of the Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation, which has operated the clinic at 3480 Centennial Blvd.

Ralston says the clinic, which now employs three physicians, was operating at a loss. The building that houses the clinic and the foundation is for sale, and the foundation is shifting gears to provide grants for community health. AL

Blacks urged to be tested

Despite making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, African-Americans account for 49 percent of its AIDS cases. AIDS is now the leading cause of death for black American women ages 25 to 34, and the second-leading cause of death for black men 35 to 44.

That's why the Southern Colorado AIDS Project and Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region are teaming up on Saturday, Feb. 7, as part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, to provide free HIV testing. The testing will be provided at the Urban League Office, 1322 N. Academy Blvd., #201, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Urban League at 634-1525. Walk-ins are welcome. JAS

CSU-Pueblo enrollment surges

A foundering economy may be helping provide some extra business for at least one nearby public university. Colorado State University-Pueblo just reported total full-time enrollment this spring of 3,528 students, a 14 percent increase from a year earlier and the highest enrollment since 1995, according to the Pueblo Chieftain.

Though enrollment numbers at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs are not due until later in the week, spokesman Tom Hutton expects UCCS also to report an increase.

Often, Hutton says, public universities see enrollment that is "counter-cyclical" to the economy, with folks who are unemployed seeking out new skills. Enrollment at UCCS was nearly 8,000 last fall, a 4 percent increase from a year earlier. AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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