Steamboat city manager urges fiscal restraint during low snow season

Averill Doering adjusts her boots after a morning of skiing at Steamboat Ski Area. Doering traveled from Ouray to find snow and was thrilled after a storm brought several inches of fresh snow to the slopes.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council learned Tuesday night the city government found a way to save $75,000 to $80,000 in its budget this year by simply changing the way contractors pay for their building permits.

But when a council member suggested the city spend some of that saved money on items that got cut from the city’s 2018 spending plan, City Manager Gary Suiter insisted on showing fiscal restraint in the middle of a winter with not a lot of snow.

“I’m concerned about winter revenues,” Suiter said noting that live feeds around the country at the Weather Summit in Steamboat showed resorts seriously lacking in powder. “I’d like to wait until we see some results from ski season” before we start spending this money.

The city doesn’t learn how much revenue it gets from sales taxes until about two months after those taxes are collected.

That means the city still hasn’t learned how revenues were in December, when snow wasn’t abundant leading up to the Christmas holiday.

City officials say they have heard anecdotally that December went well for some lodging properties.

“I’ve talked to property owners and property managers, and everyone indicates it was a pretty good December,” Finance Director Kim Weber said.

But it remains to be seen how the low-snow season will affect lodging occupancy heading into the spring.

“We don’t have a crystal ball yet,” Suiter said. “There’s obviously a lack of snow at the ski resorts, and being a sales-tax based economy, that’s something we need to pay attention to. Let’s see how these numbers are going to shape up. February and March are going to be very important.”

Suiter said the city has informed department heads to be ready to find savings in their budgets come April in the event revenue doesn’t meet expectations.

The $75,000 to $80,000 in city savings is expected to be realized in the city budget by having contractors pay building permit fees separately to the city and the county.

Weber said when the city had the fees paid all to the county, a treasurer’s fee was charged.

When the checks are made out directly to the city, the fee won’t be charged, and the city estimates it will save $75,000 to $80,000 this year.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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