If you go
What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting
When: 5 p.m. today
Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.
Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information; call 871-7070 to listen live to City Council meetings
5 p.m. Yampa Valley Housing Authority discussion
7 p.m. Public comment; requests for proposals for inclusionary zoning and linkage funds; budget review
The deserted slopes of Howelsen Hill on Monday served as a prelude to a meeting today of the Steamboat Springs City Council, which will review a budget reduction plan that totals about $2.5 million.
The closure of the city-owned ski area Mondays for the remainder of the season is a component of the plan, which also includes a furlough program for city employees, cuts to police and fire services and other government-wide maneuvers.
City Manager Jon Roberts is proposing to cut about 10 percent of the city's $25.9 million general fund, which already was cut about 5 percent compared with 2008 expenditures. The city plans to look at cuts to its $13.1 million capital projects fund next month.
Sales tax, the city's main source or revenue, has seen five straight months of decline, including a 13.5 percent dip in January.
The furlough program is expected to save the city $828,812 this year. Other cuts in the plan include $402,339 from Steamboat Spring Transit, $76,100 from the Police Department's patrol budget, $78,711 from the Planning and Community Development Department's historic preservation budget and $147,092 from the Public Works Department's streets budget.
Although the city's adopted 2009 budget shows a balance of $5 million in undesignated reserves at the end of the year, the use of those funds is not part of the plan.
Molly Waters, a manager at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter, said she would like to see council consider using reserves "instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the city employees."
"I don't see why the reserve is off the table," said Waters, who said furloughs could further negatively impact the city's sales tax collections. "When people have less money to spend, it's a domino effect, and I just don't think it's a good approach."
In general, the city's furlough plan would call for city employees to cut their hours and pay by 10 percent, though Roberts said each city department would tailor the program specifically to its needs and that some positions may be exempt.
Waters, who works 30 hours a week at the shelter, said such a move would force her family, which includes two young children, to tighten its budget and rely more heavily on her husband's salary. Waters said the shelter already has taken steps to reduce its expenditures, such as relying more heavily on volunteer hours and donations from organizations such as the Humane Society.
Roberts said the use of reserves is a complicated option because there is no way to know how long or deep the current economic recession will be.
"If you knew exactly, you could calculate a safe amount of reserves to use," he said.
Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski agreed.
"I would not support using reserves at this point," she said. "I would want to save that for unexpected expenses."
Roberts is not proposing the complete elimination of any city programs, but he said that would be the next move if council wants to make deeper cuts. City Council President Loui Antonucci said he doesn't expect to take that step at today's meeting.
"I think the worst thing we as a community can do is start eliminating programs," Antonucci said. "I guess I'm pretty optimistic that we're going to have a solution."
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