Funding planned for 2006 |

Funding planned for 2006

Council members discuss budget during retreat

Dana Strongin

City departments will have more funding in 2006, as will several organizations that receive city money.

Affordable housing is a priority, and so is city funding of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

These are some of the decisions that Steamboat Springs City Council members made during an all-day 2006 budget retreat Tuesday. Council members reviewed the $22.1 million budget, presented to them by staff, and made changes in preparation for two readings of the budget in the next few weeks.

In the budget, general fund expenditures are projected to increase 3 percent from 2005, and department leaders were given 5 percent more to spend than in the 2005 budget. The increases are in part funded by a healthy sales tax projection for 2005. Sales tax revenues are expected to increase by 5.5 percent to 7 percent from last year.

The increases will help city departments catch up after three years of relatively flat increases in their budgets, said Don Taylor, director of financial services.

Despite the increases, the City Council voted in very few items from the “want” list created by each city department director.

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During the community-support discussion, council members met most requests. Arts-based events or organizations, however, did not all receive their goal amounts. The council decided that funding health and human services, ski events and other line items was more important.

The council’s community support allocations are about $139,000 over budget.

Council members Kathy Connell and Loui Antonucci pushed to leave the allocations as they were, and other council members said they wanted to change them and meet the budget goal.

Council President Paul Strong said that the council could approve the community-support allocations as they were or ask organizers to return for another hearing.

Antonucci was doubtful that re-doing the community-support discussion would alter anything.

“What would you change?” he asked.

Council members later voted to keep the allocations as they were.

In the middle of the support discussion, the council decided to use money from a proposed vehicle and put it toward affordable housing. The city requested a $90,000 bucket truck to replace the fire truck staff members use to put up banners along the streets.

“Ninety thousand dollars to put up banners is a little steep,” council member Ken Brenner said.

Member Nancy Kramer said that if the truck were approved, she would hope it would not be underused.

City Manager Paul Hughes said using a fire truck to put up banners is excessive.

“Using a fire truck is like using a mallet to kill a fly,” Hughes said.

Brenner later proposed that the council not fund the truck, but use the money for affordable housing. Council members approved. The money is not necessarily going to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, but is set aside for affordable housing efforts.

During the meeting, council members discussed two controversial issues related to growth: The city’s cost for Triple Crown tournaments and the cost of keeping the Steamboat Springs airport open.

While reviewing the parks, open space and recreation budget, Brenner asked for the “hard cost” of maintaining fields for Triple Crown.

Chris Wilson, parks director, said the city had not calculated a cost for Triple Crown.

“Everybody’s got an opinion. To us, it’s just taking care of a facility,” Wilson said.

Brenner said the council should know the cost because “local people pay a service for this.”

Member Steve Ivancie also expressed concern about the cost of Triple Crown.

Strong said that it is not fair to allocate costs according to which organizations are using the fields. City employees will maintain fields no matter what, he said.

“If it goes unused, do these costs go away? No,” Strong said.

Connell said there needs to be a more thorough analysis of costs because state and local events use the fields, too. “Take the politics out of the actual cost. If we do it that way, then we have a really fair number,” she said.

Council members had a similar discussion about the Steamboat Springs Airport after member Susan Dellinger said she wanted to know the true cost of maintaining the airport. She said she wanted to see specifics about grants and other revenue sources.

“I would be much more comfortable if we could reach out and touch a number that I understood,” she said.

Strong also said he wanted to give $100,000 to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport for five years.

“I strongly believe that we should be partners in helping fund improvements at Yampa Valley Regional Airport,” Strong said.

Brenner said he empathized with Strong’s point but that he thought the city already gave enough to the county for the airport.

“We don’t ask them to plow our roads or for police and fire services,” Brenner said.

The council voted 4-3 to give $50,000 to Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Connell said she thought City Council members were putting themselves on too tight of a budget. To prepare the 2006 budget, city staff assumed a 2.5 percent increase in sales tax revenues — even though they are projected to increase about 5.5 percent.

“I think we did some brain damage to ourselves,” Connell said.

Ivancie told Connell that he hopes she’s right.

“It’s prudent for us to plan for the worst,” he said. “I have a bad feeling about this. Everybody’s costs have gone up. That means that the city’s costs have gone up.”

Council members are scheduled to see the budget again Oct. 18, when they will conduct a first reading of the budget as an ordinance. The second reading is set for November.

— To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail