Oak Creek seeks balanced budget

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— Town trustees will mull over raising service fees in order to balance the town's budget, a balancing act that has not occurred for sometime.

"I haven't seen the final numbers but it's going to be close," Oak Creek Mayor Deb Van Gundy said of the budget.

The service fee increases include a one-cent per kilowatt hour for electricity, which would raise rates from 7.5 cents to 8.5 cents, and cost the average user about $5 a month.

A $1 per month increase for water, which would bump the water rate from $25.25 to $26.25, and a $2.25 surcharge increase for trash pick up, also will be considered by trustees.

Those changes still keep Oak Creek's fees comparable with neighboring communities.

Yampa Valley Electric, for example, charges a little more than six cents per kilowatt hour.

But people in the city limits of Steamboat Springs must pay a 4.5 percent city tax and a 4 percent franchise tax on that rate.

In Hayden, water services are $14.15 per month, plus a meter rate that fluctuates between .80 cents and $1.80 per 1,000 gallons.

Hayden Town Clerk Lisa Johnston estimated that people in Hayden use an average of 5,000 gallons of water a month in the winter and as high as 15,000 gallons a month in summer.

There is no surcharge for trash pick up in Hayden.

Acting Oak Creek town treasurer Nancy Stahoviak said trustees will have to discuss and decide on the increases at a town meeting Thursday.

If they decide to go with the increases, Stahoviak said the town will be in good financial shape for 2001.

"Right now, we'd be about $1,200 to the good," she said.

In a memo Stahoviak sent to the trustees that showed how the town's budget can be balanced with the fee increase and other small changes, the numbers showed Oak Creek is taking in approximately $1,122,600 in revenues and spending about $1,121,400.

"It's pretty bare bones," Stahoviak said.

But the trustees still need to finalize town employee salaries, how they are going to deal with the hockey rink upkeep and pay for park maintenance.

Those decisions could throw the balance off, Stahoviak said.

If the town ends up spending more money in 2001 than it generates, that means it will have to dip into the $225,000 that it currently has in reserves.

Cathy Shipley, from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs who has advised Oak Creek before, said reserve amounts are important to have, but there is not a set number that towns should keep on hand.

"Each community has their own philosophy," she said.

Hayden, for example, likes to keep one year of operating cost in the reserves, which is about $400,000 to $500,000.

But the town has $1.64 million in reserves. That's allowing it to pay for town projects and spend more than it takes in during 2001, Johnston said.

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