Steamboat City Council digs in on $116 million budget at annual retreat; budget to be voted on in 2 weeks
Steamboat Springs City Council held its annual budget retreat Tuesday, where suggested adjustments were made to the city’s $116 million budget following proposals from directors of each city department.
Because the meeting was a work session, council members did not vote on any decisions and still have to pass a first and second reading, which will happen during regular meetings Oct. 19 and Oct. 25.
The overall budget council will vote on is $115,994,497, with $53,706,015 in the general fund, which is where most of the city’s money comes from. Steamboat City Finance Director Kim Weber projected $111,045,588 in revenue, with $115,994,497 in total expenditures, for a net total of $4,948,909.
Council members made several adjustments to the originally proposed budget, many of which involved hiring more staff members and extending city services, as the city cut back its service levels in 2020, expecting a year of low sales tax revenue due to COVID-19.
“In some areas, there might be some expansion, but we’re trying to return to the 2019 service levels, taking into consideration the challenges we’re going to have that other people are also facing with hiring and lack of supply,” Weber said.
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Chuck Cerasoli suggested adding two part-time wildland fire employees to the budget, for a total of $69,000 in personnel costs. Cerasoli said the total personnel cost would be $69,000, with $18,000 from the district and $51,000 from the city.
The two would primarily serve to fight wildfires in Steamboat and Routt County, and when not fighting wildfires in the area, they would work to educate the community on wildfire mitigation and occasionally fight fires in other parts of the West.
“They’re going to spend months here doing mitigation work and helping in other ways and helping our community if something happens here,” council member Robin Crossan said, adding support to the need for those positions.
Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby and Howelsen Ski and Rodeo Manager Brad Setter told council members they wanted to increase service levels at the city-run ski area, with 17 weeks of usage instead of the current 15 weeks and seven days of operation per week, which would include running the new chairlift all seven days, as the former chairlift only ran on weekends.
Council members expressed concern about making Howelsen revenue-positive.
While she emphasized the number was an estimate, Cosby proposed $66,000 in revenue from Howelsen after expenditures.
“It is a little bit risky, and it’s hard predicting what we’ll sell next November before we sell this November, but this is the best educated guess we can get,” Cosby said. “We can always reevaluate this season come spring/summer and make changes if we need to or if we’re not successful.”
In September, Steamboat Springs Chamber Executive Director Kara Stoller and Marketing Director Laura Soard asked the city for $850,000, with 75% of the funds going toward destination management — such as leave-no-trace campaigns, trail cleanups and other measures to mitigate any negative impacts of tourism — and the other 25% being used for destination marketing.
After discussion Tuesday, council members proposed sending $700,000 to the Chamber instead.
“This is a result of Steamboat being discovered on many different fronts,” council member Michael Buccino said of the Chamber and the city placing a heavier emphasis on management than marketing.
Council members also encouraged Stoller to keep seeking independent funding for the chamber, as much of their funding currently comes from the city.
“Don’t you want to control your own destiny,” council member Kathi Meyer said to Stoller.
Council also agreed to reduce the chamber’s economic development funding from $150,000 to $90,000.
Agreeing that the Yampa River is one of the community’s most valued assets, members increased the contribution to the Yampa River Fund from $50,000 to $75,000, with $50,000 coming from the city’s general fund and $25,000 from the utility fund.
Lastly, council chose to add a footnote to the Accommodation Tax Fund budget that states, “City Council plans to spend unallocated fund balance on future Yampa River Core Trail projects.”
The Accomodation Tax, also known as the 2A tax fund, was originally passed by voters in 1986 to fund “development of improvements and amenities in Steamboat Springs, which will promote tourism and enhance the vitality of Steamboat Springs as a (premier) destination resort.” And then in 2013, voters approved a 10-year reallocation of the funds to build trails around town and help finance improvements along Yampa Street. The tax is often referred to as the “2A tax” because of its placement on the ballot.
“I don’t think we should limit ourselves to Core Trail west because we also have Core Trail south,” council member Sonja Macys said of the trail.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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