Steamboat officials crafting budget from scratch
Hinsvark: 1st rebuilding of Steamboat city finances in more than a decade
Steamboat Springs — City finance officials say they’re crafting Steamboat Springs’ 2011 budget from scratch for the first time in more than 10 years.
Interim Finance Director Deb Hinsvark said the “zero-budget process” requires every city department to explain and justify every line item in its budget, essentially rebuilding city finances from the ground up. Steamboat Springs commonly bases its coming year’s budget on that of the previous year, making adjustments to existing funding levels as needed. Hinsvark said starting from scratch for the 2011 budget is intended to ultimately “move forward with a smaller city in a sustainable format.”
“You’re asking people to say ‘Here’s what we do, and here’s how much it costs,’” Hinsvark said.
She said it’s the first time in many years that Steamboat has taken such an approach to its budget.
“It’s definitely more than 10 (years), probably more than 15,” she said.
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The zero-budget process comes as the city struggles with months of declining sales tax revenues and continued employee furloughs during the economic recession. The city has budgeted a 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenues for 2010. That decrease is on top of the 18 percent decrease budgeted in 2009.
A June sales tax report put the city well within this year’s budgeted decrease, at about a 4.5 percent decrease year-to-date, compared to total collections as of June last year. The city had collected $8,762,853 in sales tax revenue through June 2009, compared to $8,372,139 through June this year.
Earlier this summer, the Steamboat Springs City Council expressed support for factoring an additional 10 percent decrease in sales tax revenues into the 2011 budget.
“We are making that 10 percent cut as we’re directed,” Hinsvark said.
She said staff has completed a first round of conceptual talks with department leaders to gain better understanding of budgetary needs. A second round of discussions now is under way to start crunching numbers, she said.
The City Council’s annual, daylong budget workshop is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Public Works Director Philo Shelton said it’s been a good process so far.
“I’d say it’s a positive thing to kind of bring forward what our operations do, identify the needs,” Shelton said. “We’re working toward bringing our budget in a little below what we’re doing this year.
“I think the best example I can probably give is that we evaluate our fleet based on the purpose and need of vehicles,” he continued. “I think we’ve taken a closer look at that.”
Shelton said his department is exploring grants for hybrid vehicles, which he said could be better long-term investments than current staff vehicles.
Hinsvark said budget conversations do not include employee layoffs at the moment, but that could change.
“I’m sure that if services are reduced, there would be associated personnel that would be affected,” she said.
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