The Mayor's Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins – May 5th

Published on May 05, 2023

Mayors Minute

CHEYENNE−I think almost everyone loves animals, especially dogs and cats. Judy and I attended the Fur Ball last Saturday night, joining hundreds of folks dedicated to the welfare of animals in Laramie County. One highlight for me was the cute kittens and puppies the volunteers walked around with, hoping we would bid on one or more and take them home. Judy had to keep reminding me we have a dog at home and had no time to train a new puppy. We had a great time, and the ball raised over $150,000 for the animals and shelter.

Over 100 years ago, the Arboretum was established west of town to test what trees grew well in our climate. Trees were brought from all over the world as part of the experiment. Today, many of the trees are still on site. I’m pleased that momentum is building to develop the Arboretum and to ensure trees are saved for future generations. When Cheyenne was founded, we had very few trees. I hear maybe only 12. Today, we have thousands that thrive, as much as any plant life can thrive in our environment, thanks to the work performed at the Arboretum. We had a meeting to discuss the possibility of a partnership between the city and state to develop and maintain the site. No commitments have been made yet, but the conversation was great.

Renae Jording has worked for the city of Cheyenne for 30 years now. She runs our transit program. I love getting the opportunity to talk with our long-term employees. Renae shared the history of our transit program and how the department is rolling out the new recommendations from the recent transit study. It was surprising to learn that one of the biggest challenges the department faces is getting buses and keeping them running. Parts for buses are so hard to come by, much like employees. We have a couple of openings for part-time bus drivers if anyone is looking for a great part-time job.

I met with Chief Francisco from our police department, and since the budget process is in full swing, we had a lot to discuss. We talked about hiring new officers and the training they get, especially at the academy. We also spoke about the recent tragedies our city has endured with the loss of too many teenagers. It is heartbreaking that so many young people are being lost at such a young age. I appreciate the community getting together to talk about how we can make a difference and help prevent these losses. I’m hoping we will all take extra time to make sure the folks in our lives are doing okay. Spending time with those we know and love when they are vulnerable helps to prevent the unthinkable from happening.

Next week I have to appear before the Industrial Siting Council (ISC). We have an application for a new gold mine that is proposed to be built just west of Cheyenne. When very large projects are slated to start, the local communities that will feel the impact of the construction can ask the ISC to help pay for the impacts. I spent time with our legal team this week preparing for my testimony. This mine will bring lots of construction jobs--- around 175 full-time positions. The financial impact on the city, county, and state will be meaningful. Therefore, I have followed this process closely.

I have attended many retirements in my life, but Tuesday afternoon’s send-off was one retirement I won’t easily forget. Becky Juschka retired from our police department after spending 21 years in law enforcement. I learned that she is a much respected and loved member of our department.  The stories told by many made me laugh and cry. I was especially impressed by the comments from the assistant principal of Johnson Jr. High School. Becky was a school resource officer there and an amazing partner to both staff and students. There was one other story I laughed at, which was her response to a difficult arrest. After a particularly brutal fight during an arrest, she showed up to work the next day, bruised and battered. Her segreant told the story of how he shamed the guys on the shift during roll call the next day. The guys would have called in sick, but no, not Becky. We are all wishing her well in the next phase of her life.

Robin Lockman, our city treasurer, and I presented our budget to the city council this week. We attended more than 27 budget meetings with city departments and outside agencies, conferred with economists and financial advisors, and created a conservative budget that we believe will meet the needs of our city for the next fiscal year. 

Our General Fund Budget revenues are projected to be $66,014,998. Sales taxes make up 36.4 percent of our revenues. When you spend $1,000 in taxable purchases, the city receives $7.71. I was surprised the first time I realized how little the city gets out of the $40 collected in sales tax from a $1,000 purchase. Property taxes are our second-highest revenue source. The property taxes on a $400,000 home in Cheyenne are $2,712.44; and of that, the city receives $304. We don’t have enough single-family homes in Cheyenne to pay for the 91 firefighters we currently have on our fire department at $304 per home.

We are seeing a couple of areas with big changes in our projected revenues. Electricity and natural gas franchise fees are projected to be up $482,000 next year. Data centers and manufacturing use large amounts of electricity, and our revenues show it. Historic horse racing is relatively new in our state. However, because of its popularity, we project an additional $805,000 in revenue next year. The biggest change to our budget is due to general business activity in the county, especially in oil and gas exploration. We expect an additional $2 million from last year’s adopted budget. 

We recognize the economy is under stress, and some areas of our budget will show that. Building permits are projected to be lower next year by $500,000. This comes from lower single-family housing and no large projects projected to begin next year. Unfortunately, interest rates and inflation are doing a number on the building industry. 

On the expense side of our budget, 72.42 percent of our budget is payroll and benefits for our employees. Most of our money goes to our most important asset, the folks who serve our community. On the other hand, our utility bills make up 3.9 percent of the budget, and other categories are a surprisingly small percentage. 

This was the first budget we were able to add some key employees to our staff. Adding two police officers and one community service officer will help our department keep up with the growth of our city. A project manager for our community recreation and events department will help their 12 divisions keep up with the never-ending construction projects. New financial requirements necessitated the hiring of an additional accountant. Our street and alley department used to have 40 folks plowing snow and fixing potholes. Today, we have just over half that number. I have been trying to hire additional heavy equipment operators each year to help the department keep up with the ever-growing miles of streets. We also budgeted an additional clerk for the municipal court and a records clerk for the police department. This is the first time since I was elected mayor that our employee count has caught up with the pre-pandemic numbers. 

They say April showers are supposed to bring May flowers. I’m hoping for more sunshine also to help make that promise come true. 

If you have a question or comment for me, please send an email to I’ll continue to answer your questions or concerns in the following Mayor’s Minute column.