Steamboat council approves $40M budget

Final city budget for 2020 includes new planning position, raises for city staff, design for new lift at Howelsen

Steamboat Springs City Hall
Scott Franz

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs will soon have city planners focused on both preserving the past and building the future.

The Steamboat Springs City Council approved its 2020 budget Tuesday night, including $89,000, which will be used to shuffle staff in the Planning and Community Development Department to strengthen the department’s long-range planning and historic preservation efforts.

Those dollars will be used to hire an additional city planner, who will work with developers and property owners to preserve historic structures in addition to processing development applications. With an additional staff member reviewing development applications, current city planners will be able to spend more time on long-range planning efforts, including implementing changes to city laws outlined in 2019’s downtown plan and helping set new goals for development Steamboat’s mountain area.

There’s intersection between the two roles, too, as the downtown plan calls for stronger historic preservation.

The city previously had a historic preservation position in the planning department, but it was eliminated in the last decade. The city planning department currently uses a consultant to tackle development applications with a historic preservation component. The number of staff in the planning department has also decreased from about 13 staff members a decade ago to eight in 2019, including planners, code enforcement officers and administrative assistant staff, Bessey said.

“By nature of downsizing, our capacity to do long-range planning tasks has been limited, so it’s not necessarily that we didn’t have anyone dedicated to those tasks. … It’s just really more of a capacity issue for us right now and is why we haven’t been able to really dedicate a whole lot of staff time to that activity,” she said. “We’ll be adding a half-time capacity for historic preservation, and then, we’re adding additional capacity that we can devote about half of somebody’s time to long-range planning.”

“The reason this matters is because most of us come to Steamboat Springs because we love that humble small town feel,” said Historic Routt County Executive Director Emily Katzman. “It’s what draws us here, what keeps us here, and that’s what we want to preserve. Once we lose it, it’s gone forever, so historic preservation is an important component of maintaining what we love about our community.”

Katzman hopes to see more structures included on the city’s historic registry, which comes with regulatory protection, as well as outreach and engagement with people who own historic properties. Those are two things Bessey said will rise to priority for the new hire.

Raises for city staff, design for a new lift at Howelsen

The 2020 budget forecasts about $40.92 million in revenue for the coming year, with $40.9 million in total spending.

As of October 2019, the city was projected to take in $38.89 million and spend $39.17 million out of its general fund.

Highlight’s from the 2020 budget include:

• Returning seasonal staff at the city will continue to receive $1 per hour raises when they return for another season. The initial budget didn’t include these raises due to staff error.

• City staff will see pay increases. Administrative and labor trade staff would see a 7.5% increase. Professional and management positions would see a 5% increase. Sworn police officers and firefighters would see a 3% increase with an additional step increase of 4% to 7% for eligible employees.

• The city will also complete or work toward a number of capital projects. At Howelsen Park alone, the city will start work on designing a replacement for the Barrow’s Chairlift, stabilizing Howelsen Hill and paving the parking lot at the rodeo grounds. The city will also pay for new software for several departments, fund runway repairs at the Steamboat Springs Airport and complete sidewalks on Steamboat’s west side.

• The city will make a $50,000 contribution to the Yampa River Fund.

• City funding for the Steamboat Springs Chamber’s destination marketing fund was reduced from a proposed $900,000 to $875,000. Of that, $25,000 will be dedicated to sharing the cost of a possible election related to a tourism improvement district.

Fire and emergency services funding

The city has yet to budget revenues it expects to receive from a 2-mill property tax to fund fire and emergency services. These dollars will be allocated at City Council’s Tuesday, Dec. 10, meeting, when City Finance Director Kim Weber will present funding options to the group.

Revenue from the tax is forecast to generate $1.4 million to $1.5 million in annual revenue.

Steamboat Fire Rescue’s strategic plan calls for the addition of three personnel who would serve as both firefighters and emergency medical technicians. With a new fire station on the horizon, City Council will determine how to allocate funds for staffing, operations and capital projects.

To view the City Council’s discussion on this topic, visit

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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