Steamboat Springs budget has large surplus
The city of Steamboat Springs is experiencing a budgetary windfall.
Revenues are up, expenditures are down, and while the city is legally obligated to stay under budget, the size of the surplus tells a lot about the economic conditions in Steamboat Springs.
Sales tax revenue is up. The 2021 budget anticipated $24.7 million in revenue for the general fund, but the actual amount came in 30% higher at $32 million, a difference of $7.2 million.
Revenue for the Steamboat Springs Education Fund is also up. The fund helps local schools and draws money from a half-cent sales tax, approved in 1993, that equates to 5 cents on a $5 purchase.
The fund paid out $2.8 million in 2020-21, a low year due to the pandemic. The fund is currently in the process of allocating $5.2 million raised in 2021-22.
“And the current budget is $7.4 million,” added Sam Jones, president of the Steamboat Springs Education Fund, referring to projected revenues for the 2022-23 school year.
“So it’s a pretty enormous, parabolic move off of the lows two years ago,” Jones said. “We are literally fire-hosing money into the districts right now.”
This is good news for the city, but with some caveats. Commerce in Steamboat has increased, but so have prices.
“When groceries go up by 20%, so does sales tax,” said Kim Weber, the city’s finance director.
The Building Use Tax also collected a high number — $4 million in 2021 as compared to $2.3 million in 2020.
This tax also feeds into the Steamboat Springs Public Education Fund at the same half-cent rate as the normal sales tax rate.
“Building Use Tax is a direct correlation between the cost of materials, and as we know the costs are escalating drastically,” Weber said.
Staffing shortages in several departments also contributed to the city’s surplus. The police department was the most under-budget in 2021 due to staffing being down 31%. The department came in 12% under budget with a surplus of $665,586.
A large portion of the budget surplus will go toward the city’s six-year capital improvement plan.
The plan involves a list of one-time cost projects, including improvements to the Yampa River Core Trail, replacing police vehicle radios, and a new building for the fire department.
“If we completed all our projects this year, we’d still have $3.7 million in capital projects fund reserves,” Weber said.
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