Hayden officials foresee grim financial future
Steamboat Springs — Hayden Town Council members and residents could have hard choices to make unless the town finds a way to increase its revenues.
“The future doesn’t look good,” Mayor Jim Haskins said. “We’re going to have to cut services or cut employees, and I don’t know how we’re going to be able to cut employees. The town is going to have to make some tough decisions.”
The Hayden Town Council last week passed the budget for 2016, which calls for deficit spending again this year. For 2016, the town has budgeted $2,384,000 in general fund expenses with revenues of $1,979,000.
That means the town is dipping into its reserves.
By the end of this year, the town projects it will have $683,000 in reserves.
“There is only so long you can draw on your reserves before you are out of money,” Hayden Town Manager David Torgler said. “At the end of 2017, we won’t have any reserves.”
In recent years, the town has been hit by decreasing revenues from sales taxes and property taxes.
Sales taxes are the town’s biggest source of revenue. From 2007 to 2009, the town was generating about $1.2 million annually in sales tax revenue. In 2015, the town will collect about $937,000 in sales tax revenues.
There are several options town officials can pursue to raise revenue for the town.
Currently, the town is not projecting tax revenues from any future marijuana grow facilities, because Hayden residents will vote Jan. 26 on whether to allow such facilities. At a tax rate of five percent, the town has estimated marijuana grow operations could generate $143,500 in annual revenue for the town.
“It’s a chance to provide jobs, and it’s a chance to provide some tax revenue,” Haskins said.
Asking voters to approve additional taxes is another option to raise more revenue. Increasing sales tax from 0.5 percent to 4.5 percent would generate about $105,000 annually. Increasing property taxes by 30 percent would increase revenues by $150,000 annually.
Haskins does not think voters would approve raising taxes.
“That won’t fly,” Haskins said. “We don’t want to do that.”
Despite the revenue shortfalls, town staff members will be getting a three percent raise in 2016. The town council members thought the raise was important to retain its employees. Haskins said the staff members are currently paid less than those in other communities.
Other highlights from the 2016 budget include some good news. Torgler said that, thanks to the Parks and Recreation Commission members, the town’s recreation programs and events are paying for themselves.
Despite a tight budget, the town is moving forward with a major maintenance project. Next year, Hayden will spend an estimated $100,000 on planning work for a project to repair the streets that are in the worst shape. The town plans to go to voters in November to approve bonds to pay for the $1.55 million project. That dollar amount does not include the cost of the interest on the bonds.
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