Medians, lot shuttle cut from city budget

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— In a tight fiscal year, the City Council ax cut deep into that section of the budget that funds the city's most visible changes: capital projects.
Some things residents of Steamboat Springs may not see next year: newly landscaped medians on U.S. 40, a Howelsen Ice Arena parking lot shuttle and improved bus shelters.
Back in July, when city department heads first submitted their 2001 budget requests, they racked up a total of about $11 million in capital project proposals, City Manager Paul Hughes said. By Tuesday's budget retreat, the total had been trimmed back to $3.8 million.
That number is higher than the amount originally earmarked for capital projects for this budget year. It also includes such major expenditures as $800,000 for a fire truck and a $200,000 grant match for the Transit Department.
The budget is tight due to a number of factors. Revenue sources, such as sales tax and building use tax, were not projected to perform at significantly increased levels. In some areas, also, costs have jumped. Health insurance costs have driven personnel costs up 10.4 percent over this year's figures.
Late this summer, during the second round of 2001 budget meetings between individual departments and the finance department and city manager, about $4.6 million was cut. The rest was slashed by the city manager as he tried to make expenditures approach revenue numbers.
"It's simply a matter of priorities," Hughes said. "None of these decisions are easy to make."
Certain projects, he said, could no longer be deferred and took precedence over other concerns. "We have deferred so many so often that we simply can't put them off anymore."
Hughes said the city will give projects deferred for next year a higher priority come 2002.
Of the $4.6 million cut from the second round of budget meetings, $2.9 million had been earmarked for capital improvement projects. For each project eventually financed by the city, at least one project was deleted, deferred or reduced from the budget.
U.S. 40 medians, which the city had planned would have greenery and trees from downtown all the way to Walton Creek Road, will remain unfinished through 2001. The city had been scheduled to spend about $100,000 to beautify the medians every year until the project was finished. The project has been deferred for the past three years.
Another cut project, which Hughes believes could help solve the city's perceived downtown parking problems, was a $124,000 shuttle bus proposal to take people from the parking lot at Howelsen Ice Arena to Lincoln Avenue. Despite the lack of a shuttle, Hughes hopes employees of downtown businesses will still take the two-block walk across the river to the downtown area.
"I still think that that lot is going to help with downtown employee parking," he said.
The bus shelters are regularly maintained and upgraded, but, with the appropriate funds, the city usually builds one or two new shelters every year. However, because of budget constraints, new shelters will have to wait for at least one more year.
"That's one that we can hold off for a year without losing anything," he said.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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