Council makes budget cuts |

Council makes budget cuts

City officials ready to limit funds for personnel, rec programs

The Steamboat Springs City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to a 2009 budget of $56 million that reflects more than $2 million in cuts made in the past 18 days.

“You asked us to cut $1.9 million, and that’s what staff has done over the last 2 1/2 weeks,” acting City Manager Wendy DuBord said. “The bottom line is we think this is a workable budget. We cut more than you asked us to.”

DuBord said the proposed cuts amounted to $2.04 million. The need to cut the budget is driven by City Council’s anticipation that sales tax revenues, which represent the majority of city revenues, will decline next year in the midst of the national economic crisis.

Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski cast the lone dissenting vote on first reading of the budget ordinance. She said she thinks city revenue projections are overly optimistic given the nation’s economic climate.

The budget ordinance comes up for final reading Nov. 18.

Not included in the $2 million worth of budget cuts is $225,790 that was restored to the summer marketing budget, provided under contract to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association. That brings the total summer marketing budget to $564,200.

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DuBord said about $1.3 million in proposed personnel costs – the equivalent of nearly 18 full-time jobs – has been sliced from the budget, along with $680,339 in operating expenses. The personnel savings do not necessarily represent layoffs of current city employees.

The 2009 budget cuts will be felt by Steamboat residents who use some of the most modest programs within the city’s $5 million budget for its Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services. That budget has been cut by 6 percent.

Gone from the budget are the entire $1,987 for open gym basketball and $1,287 for open gym volleyball.

And the $18,000 devoted to the Pee Wee Adventures child care program that frees up about 13 stay-at-home moms for 2 1/2 hours daily, has been eliminated.

The little magic carpet surface ski lift for toddlers at Howelsen Hill is also among the casualties.

Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson said the cuts were guided by the philosophy of trimming programs that impact the fewest numbers of people. He said his staff was committed to working with user groups to explore ways to keep affected programs going without the city funding.

“This is where the rubber meets the road, and people see their preferences impacted,” Wilson said. “We plan to get together with impacted groups across the board and look for ways to continue through other methods.”

Other youth programs – basketball, football, teen events and after school programs among them – were left relatively unscathed or even saw modest increases.

Councilmen Jon Quinn and Walter Magill expressed their wishes that the Pee Wee program be restored to the budget.

Council President Loui Antonucci cautioned them against micro-managing the budget process.

“We gave staff the directive to balance the budget and make the necessary cuts,” Antonucci said.

Councilwoman Meg Bentley asked her colleagues to consider cutting their monthly salary from $600 to $500 to demonstrate a willingness to share personally in the budget cuts.

“If it means keeping the PeeWees, I’m for it,” Quinn said.

DuBord reminded council that it would have access to $3 million in general fund operating reserves as a backstop in 2009.

– To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

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