Proposed cuts raise eyebrows

Council will weigh infrastructure against community programs

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Vehicles line up at a stop light shortly before 5 p.m. Monday at U.S. Highway 40 and Elk River Road. The Steamboat Springs City Council will discuss the city's budget tonight. It calls for saving additional money for infrastructure improvements, such as re-striping Highway 40 with four lanes to help alleviate congestion.

— Sending the statement that Steamboat Springs' infrastructure should be given a higher priority when compared to community support programs, City Manager Alan Lanning has proposed a 2008 budget that would cut community support spending by more than 30 percent.

Community support spending goes toward events such as July Fourth fireworks and organizations such as Yampa Valley Recycles and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. The 2008 budget will be discussed today during an all-day meeting of the Steamboat Springs City Council. Public comment will be allowed at 2 p.m.

Despite the proposed cuts, Lanning has indicated that he expects City Council to restore funding to the community support programs early on in the process.

"It's a proposed budget, and it can easily be changed by the City Council (today)," Lanning said Monday.

Although City Council may not follow Lanning's proposal to cut community support spending, City Council President Susan Dellinger said she agrees that the city should develop more of an internal focus for its spending.

"We have a lot of big projects that we need to save money for," Dellinger said. "We have to move away from something, and it can't be personnel or insurance. It has to be something more flexible."

Lanning said projects such as water lines, sewer lines, buses and streets all deserve more attention. He said the city expended "untold resources" dealing with a Sept. 11 water line break that left much of west Steamboat without water service. Such a situation could be avoided with improved infrastructure, Lanning said.

"Had we had a redundant system, we would have been in a much better position," Lanning said.

Others are balking at Lanning's proposed shift in focus and believe community support programs have community character value beyond the bottom line.

"I think it would be a disgrace and would be extraordinarily destructive to the nature of the community if that budget passed," said Marion Kahn, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council.

City staff's proposed budget would cut the Arts Council's allotment from $42,000 in 2007 to $0 in 2008.

"There would be a number of organizations that would have to close their doors if this budget were approved," Kahn said. "You would lose a lot of what it means to be a citizen of Steamboat Springs, Colorado."

Lanning disagreed that programs would be imperiled as a result of his proposed cuts.

"I don't believe any programs will be put in jeopardy, and that's not the intent," he said.

City Councilman Ken Brenner said the proposed cuts are the largest single-year decreases he has seen in his years on City Council. He feels the proposed cuts present too drastic a change for the organizations affected.

"I can't support that," Brenner said. "Generally, if we're going to make a significant change ... we need to be announcing that way in advance and slowly weaning them."

If the budget were to be approved as proposed, which is not expected, Lanning said the money being taken from community support programs would be directed toward the budget in general to fund operations. Lanning said his proposal is bound to be unpopular because residents are naturally less passionate about something like a new sewer line when compared to programs such as the Free Summer Concert Series.

"I think in general if you look across the U.S. from the federal level to the local level, our infrastructure in general is in very poor condition," Lanning said. "We neglect to address infrastructure needs because they're perhaps not as glamorous as other things."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

localthinker 7 years, 1 month ago

Boy, how long do you think it will take for Mr. Lanning to be fired and have his contract bought out? Oops, he doesn't work for the school district. Sorrrry, my mistake....

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Malcolm_Reynolds 7 years, 1 month ago

Wow, tax dollars going to infrastructure, what a concept. To be a citizen of Steamboat Springs means to be able to have the services the city provides to me, first! Then give to groups prudently.

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Zac Brennan 7 years, 1 month ago

Let the 'new wealth' moving here patronize the arts...the rest of us are busy working..I support Alan Lanning. Those Marabou types can easily set up a tax-dodge foundation to generate the needed support.

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Jennifer Lowe 7 years, 1 month ago

The water line break wouldn't have happened had the city told the contractor that there was a "T" (yes, they knew and whoops! forgot to tell anyone . . . )

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Neil O'Keeffe 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm all for making sure we have the funds to support our infrastructure first and formost, but where is all of this unpresedented revenue from development going? Agree or not with funding of the arts, recycling etc but why are these insignificant items being jepordized in the first place, could it be the wasted and mispent tax dollars that have gone to under budgeted projects like the community center, library etc.? Is the plan to make room for the proposed rec center sky high cost? Believe it or not all the items mentioned; fireworks, arts, recycling have value for this community either as a draw for tourist revenue or simply adding to the quality and diversity of life. Has anyone asked the question of why we need to be considering cuts at this time, let's focus on the real issue at hand, which is mismanagement and out of control spending.

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steamboatsconscience 7 years, 1 month ago

They better not take away my free concerts! And make sure whoever applies for the liquor license has a calendar !

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id04sp 7 years, 1 month ago

Hire a manager and then defeat his attempts to manage.

The fact that the "arts council" needs public support is pretty much proof that art is an overhead luxury that the general population will not support if they have to take money out of their own pockets to do it.

We've got people leaving town because they can't afford to live here, and part of that cost is sales and property tax that goes to support BS programs.

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CoJustice 7 years, 1 month ago

We cannot afford to pay our city employees (police, fire, etc) enough that we have to consider special housing, but would fund a Art Council over employees, nice way to demoralized your public servants.

There is no greater obligation for us as citizens than to support our public servants.

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Matthew Stoddard 7 years, 1 month ago

LOL! Yeah, can't wait to see this happen! This is gonna be funny!

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birddog 7 years, 1 month ago

The city has plenty of money to buy a hotel but it can't afford to fix the potholes? They picked three things that they knew everyone will get all emotional about, Fourth of July fireworks, Yampa Valley Recycles and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council. This whole thing sounds more like a big scare to justify more taxes.

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