Steamboat council approves $116M budget, with grit dump ID’d as top funding priority

In their final vote as a council, six Steamboat Springs City Council members unanimously passed the 2022 budget at their meeting Monday, with council member Sonja Macys absent from the vote, approving a $116 million spending plan.

“For me, we’ve obviously talked about this budget a lot, and we each have different items we maybe wish would change a bit here and there,” said City Council President Jason Lacy. “But on the whole, this is a great budget.”

Prior to council’s budget retreat in October, staff from the city finance department and City Manager Gary Suiter met with directors from each city department to discuss funding priorities.

Projects receiving the most funding include the grit dump, which will process and help the city dispose of waste collected from the street cleaning system to help protect waterways and air quality. It was listed as the city’s first funding priority at $950,000 in addition to the $928,000 already budgeted for this project.

Other top funding priorities include: repairing the Soda Creek bridges, $800,000; Yampa River forest restoration project, $435,000; Steamboat Springs Transit bus refurbishment, $160,000; and central fire station construction, $16,226,978.

While council agreed with many staff recommendations, several changes to the originally proposed budget were made. The majority of changes include hiring more staff and bringing back higher service levels following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several changes were made to Howelsen Hill’s budget, including: opening Howelsen Hill Ski Area seven days per week and adding two weeks to the ski area’s normal season; adding one-and-a-half full-time equivalent employees to Howelsen operations at a cost of $71,406; and increasing Howelsen Hill charges for service by $133,137.

Additionally, council voted to decrease the proposed funding to the Steamboat Springs Chamber by $150,000. The Chamber originally asked for $850,000, with 75% of the funding earmarked for destination management, which could include 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.

Council members also voted to reduce special event grant funding by $20,000 and increasing the city’s Yampa River Fund contribution by $25,000. Council members also voted to cancel the city’s membership to the National League of Cities, which will free up $1,584, and add two wildland firefighters. Both will be part-time and will cost $41,733 altogether.

Steamboat Finance Director Kim Weber used 2021 sales tax revenue to predict 2022 revenue. Weber said the city has already exceeded 2020 revenue projections, and 2022 estimates are conservative.

“We feel confident that we will exceed those projections,” Weber added.

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