Photo by Matt Stensland
Liza Jackson, with Routt County CattleWomen, serves up "Cowgirl Chili" in September during Mainstreet Steamboat Springs’ Chuck Wagon Chili Challenge in downtown Steamboat Springs. City officials supported an allocation of $45,000 to Mainstreet for 2011 events during a Tuesday discussion of community support funding for more than 40 local groups and organizations.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs’ proposed 2011 budget includes $700,000 in cuts to city personnel costs.
City Manager Jon Roberts said that equates to about a 5 percent reduction of total personnel costs for the city, which has a staff equivalent to 270 full-time employees. Some of those cuts include positions that already are vacant but were budgeted for in 2010. Roberts said public safety will not bear the brunt of the cuts — Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and the Steamboat Springs Police Department will see minimal personnel cost reductions, 2 percent or less compared to peak levels in 2008. The city’s Finance Department will see an 18 percent personnel cost reduction from that year, Roberts said, as will the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department.
Roberts said those percentages include cost reductions from attrition, salary freezes and other cuts proposed for the 2011 budget.
The city’s Planning and Community Development Department will see a 43 percent reduction from 2008, but the department has three positions that already are vacant: a historic preservation coordinator, a community housing coordinator and a code enforcement technician.
“With approval of the budget by City Council, those three positions would be eliminated entirely from the budget,” Roberts said Tuesday during the city’s daylong budget hearing in Centennial Hall.
Roberts said personnel accounts for 65 percent of the city’s total general fund expenditures, and those costs increased during the past decade.
“The average cost per employee has increased 50 percent from 2000 to 2008,” he said.
The city is facing its third consecutive year of declining revenues.
The 2011 budget projects sales tax revenue of about $14.5 million, which would be 10 percent less than 2010’s projected sales tax total of about $16.1 million.
That decrease will come on top of the 10 percent sales tax decrease budgeted for this year, compared to 2009, and the 18 percent decrease in sales tax revenues budgeted for 2009, compared to 2008.
An end to furloughs for city employees was not discussed Tuesday. Deb Hinsvark, the city’s interim finance director, said 36-hour work weeks are “the new norm for many of our employees.”
Roberts said he has been meeting with a management committee to draft a plan for the personnel cuts, which he would not detail specifically. He said the committee will finalize the plan, and then he will speak with affected employees. Personnel cuts are made by the city manager, not City Council.
Also Tuesday, City Council took its first formal look at proposed 2011 community support allocations, which provide funding for more than 50 local organizations ranging from cultural groups, such as the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, to emergency services, such as Routt County Search and Rescue.
City Council supported funding levels that matched 2010 for most groups.
The majority of community support allocations are determined by three coalitions — arts and culture, human resources, and environment — that compare requests from groups with similar goals or services.
City Council supported Tuesday a total of $329,975 in allocations next year for groups involved with the three coalitions. That total matches 2010 funding.
Council members Walter Magill and Kenny Reisman opposed the allocation because of concerns about the process of determining funding levels in a budget plagued by declining revenues.
Magill also was the sole opposition in 6-1 votes to support $10,441 in funding for Routt County Riders, a cycling advocacy group; and the Mountain Village Partnership, which promotes businesses and events at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Both groups are new to the community support process.
Magill asked whether their funding requests and needs were sufficiently vetted. City Council President Cari Hermacinski agreed with that notion and argued unsuccessfully to create a fourth coalition, for economic development groups. That coalition also could include requests from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs and others.
Council agreed to explore the idea of a fourth coalition for the 2012 budget. Supporters of the idea said it would improve examination of funding requests and prevent duplication of dollars.
“I don’t know if we’re wringing the budget when it comes to all this,” Hermacinski said about some community support allocations. “That isn’t what the fire department got. That isn’t what public works got.”
The city’s proposed 2011 budget, including community support funds, is pending City Council approval through two more public hearings. The next is Nov. 2.