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Our View: Community funding still key

City Council navigating difficult balance between funding essential and nonessential services

Steamboat Springs — In a daylong budget hearing that included the grim reality of $700,000 in city personnel cuts, the Steamboat Springs City Council correctly voted to keep community support funding at existing levels. — In a daylong budget hearing that included the grim reality of $700,000 in city personnel cuts, the Steamboat Springs City Council correctly voted to keep community support funding at existing levels.

— In a daylong budget hearing that included the grim reality of $700,000 in city personnel cuts, the Steamboat Springs City Council correctly voted to keep community support funding at existing levels.

We hate to see local workers lose their jobs, particularly during a recession that has left many Steamboat Springs families struggling to make ends meet. It’s precisely times like these that we should expect our local government to operate like a private business and be only as big as necessary to accomplish the essential services for which it exists.

As is often the case here in Northwest Colorado, nothing is as simple as it seems. Take, for example, the city’s community support funding and other budget line items that most certainly aren’t related to core government services such as law enforcement, fire protection, snowplowing and water service.



Every year, the City Council is approached by a variety of community organizations seeking funding to advance their causes. There’s no doubt that many of those organizations provide important services in our city, and it’s hard to imagine cutting funding for some of the health and human service agencies that are experiencing record demand as a result of the economy.

Adding to the community support funding challenge is that many of the groups that ask for taxpayer dollars fall into categories that just can’t be considered essential to the well-being of citizens. But here in Steamboat Springs, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve funding.



It’s no secret that our city depends on tourism — remember our sales-tax based revenue stream? — and while some residents reject the idea that city government plays any role in tourism, our elected officials have good reason for OK’ing allocations to efforts such as Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association marketing, the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, Routt County Riders and the Mountain Village Partnership.

Helping to fund groups that in turn help to stimulate the local economy — whether by attracting visitors to town or improving amenities — is an appropriate role for the city of Steamboat Springs..

Accordingly, the council last week gave initial approval to maintaining community support funding at existing levels. For 2011, that could mean nearly $330,000 of the city’s projected $14.5 million in sales-tax revenues. The $330,000 does not include funding for the Chamber and other community organizations that aren’t part of the arts and culture, human resources and environment coalitions.

The decision wasn’t as straightforward as it might appear. Some council members questioned whether some community funding requests are sufficiently vetted. Community panels are appointed that research and study community support funding proposals. Council President Cari Hermacinski wisely suggested the city create a fourth community support coalition specifically for economic development groups like the Chamber, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, the Mountain Village Partnership and others. The city will explore that possibility for the 2012 budget.

Just as the city ought to be seriously questioning staffing levels throughout all departments, it ought to be making sure taxpayer dollars spent on community support funding are being effectively put to use for the betterment of the city. The council was right to give approval to funding a variety of organizations that provide important services to residents and promote economic development.


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