To fund, or not to fund

City Council allocates $47.5 million in 2007 budget

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Coming Sunday

Read a detailed report about the proposed 2007 city budget, including funding breakdowns and the decisions involved, in Sunday's Steamboat Pilot.

There will not be a Main Street Shuttle in 2007. Re-paving the parking lot at Howelsen Hill won't happen in 2007 either. But the city likely will spend $100,000 to clear snow from Lincoln Avenue sidewalks this winter, and the Steamboat Springs Police Department will be able to hire two new patrol officers.

Guided by Director of Financial Services Don Taylor and City Manager Alan Lanning, the Steamboat Springs City Council made one tough decision after another Tuesday, in a daylong public hearing about the proposed 2007 budget.

"We have more requests than we can possibly fund," council member Loui Antonucci said. "It's not going to be an easy afternoon for us."

The budget will be finalized during upcoming City Council meetings.

Tuesday, the council reviewed funding requests from numerous sources, including city departments such as transportation, public safety and fire services; community groups such as Steamboat Springs Art Council and Strings in the Mountains; short-term capital projects such as preservation of the historical More Barn and a new building at Yampa River Botanic Park; and long-term projects such as an expansion of recreational boating features on the Yampa River and designs for a possible new recreation center. All of those items received new or increased funding.

The proposed 2007 budget lists total projected expenditures of $47,592,791, which is nearly $2 million more than projected 2007 total revenues of $45,952,760. But the city will have more than $10 million in reserves at the end of this year, leading Taylor to express confidence in city finances.

"As your finance director, I'm not alarmed by this," Taylor told the council. "I think we're OK with where we are today - we have a sound budget."

Taylor said that because of booming sales tax revenues, "this budget has significantly more resources than previous years."

The city conservatively projects $18.6 million in sales tax revenues for 2007. The sales tax will bring the city about $17.7 million in 2006.

But Lanning and several council members, including Towny Anderson, said City Council should spend more conservatively.

"I'm not an accountant; I read budgets as a layperson," Anderson said. "And what I see is that we are spending more than we can afford. We ought to be finding a way that our spending is in line with our revenues."

The council found one such way Tuesday, with full or partial denials of numerous funding requests.

The council denied $38,500 for an update of Vision 2020, a wide-ranging community plan created by a citizen committee in 1994. City Council President Ken Brenner asked the committee to revise its proposal.

The council also denied all but $500 of a $5,000 funding increase requested by Emerald City Opera, which hoped to double its number of performances. The council also gave a nominal increase, much less than requested, to the Steamboat Springs Art Council.

"I don't think any of us likes sitting up here and being the hatchet man," Antonucci said.

The overall budget review allowed the council to get a handle on future spending before acting on the revised budget next month.

"We have the opportunity to change this (budget) at a later time," Brenner said.

Joan Hodo, staff assistant in Taylor's office, compiled the proposed budget into a thick three-ring binder. A copy of the proposed budget is available for public review at City Hall, 137 10th St.

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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