Our View: A lot to like about 2012 city budget

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The proposed 2012 budget for the city of Steamboat Springs presents a reasoned approach to meeting the demands of providing core government services while also helping to fund ancillary services that make Steamboat a great place to live and visit. But there are areas of the budget that cause us concern and merit further attention from city officials.

First, the good.

The city, led by its department directors, finance director, city manager, deputy city manager and Steamboat Springs City Council, continues to successfully navigate through one of the most difficult economic periods this country has ever seen. Conservative revenue estimates and slashed expenses have not dramatically affected city services during the past couple of years, and we expect the same for 2012.

Next year, the city plans to provide a 1.5 percent cost-of-living bonus to its employees. These are the same employees who were subject to mandatory (and ongoing) furloughs a couple of years ago when the bottom fell out of the local economy. Despite a 10 percent reduction in hours, and a corresponding reduction in hours of operation for many city departments, the impact to residents has been minimal. That’s a real credit to city staff, and we think the $250,000 one-time bonus is appropriate in 2012.

Some of the more substantial service cuts in 2012 are being absorbed by the Steamboat Springs Transit and Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services departments. Steamboat Springs Transit is moving back the start of winter bus service to coincide with the start of winter air service to Yampa Valley Regional Airport. That makes sense. The Parks and Recreation Department is reducing the operating hours at Howelsen Hill and eliminating the annual Easter egg hunt, city holiday party and the hanging flower baskets along Lincoln Avenue downtown.

That doesn’t mean all of them will go away, nor should they. Expenditures like the flower baskets and barrels are extremely important to our image as a worthwhile place to visit and spend money. Therefore, one of the most promising things we heard during the budget hearing Tuesday was that the city will explore public-private partnerships with local groups and businesses to maintain some of those services that are on the chopping block. But better than simply explore them, the city needs to find a way to make them work. An absence of flower baskets and barrels downtown next summer isn’t acceptable. The flower baskets combined with the flower barrels are already a public-private partnership where the businesses in town pick up the larger cost of the barrels and the city pays for the baskets and the cost to water both of them.

While flower baskets and barrels add only a couple thousand dollars to the city’s budget, Howelsen Hill represents a much more significant percentage of Steamboat’s overall expenditures. The city-owned ski area and park facility operates at an annual loss of between $750,000 and $1 million, depending on the year. Howelsen Hill is a sacred cow in the community, but it’s time to figure out how to get it in the black. During Tuesday’s all-day budget hearing, officials expressed willingness to address the significant annual subsidization of Howelsen Hill. Perhaps the answer comes in the form of a public-private partnership as envisioned for other previously city-funded services. But whatever the answer, it must come. The city, which has proven itself capable of making difficult budget decisions, cannot afford to continue to subsidize Howelsen Hill.

Comments

BeCoolHoneyBunny 3 years ago

Let's acknowledge what this is really saying. Subsidizing Howelsen Hill to the tune of $750,000 a year is subsidizing the Winter Sports Club. Howelsen will never be in the black unless SSWSC finds a way to cover their own costs. SSWSC used to be the owners of the ski hill. Why do you think they turned it over to the city in the first place? While I do see SSWSC paying more of the share to run Howelsen Hill, I don't ever see the subsidizing to stop. There is normally strong support for SSWSC and Howelsen Hill year after year by both residents and city council. I'm sure there are many SSWSC supporters out there that are very unhappy about the paper's opinion.

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kathy foos 3 years ago

What kind of toilet paper should we buy oh great one?

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insbsdeep 3 years ago

"The city, which has proven itself capable of making difficult budget decisions, cannot afford to continue to subsidize Howelsen Hill."

"Expenditures like the flower baskets and barrels are extremely important to our image as a worthwhile place to visit and spend money."

The editorial board really thinks that flowers on main street are more important to our community then Howelsen Hill. Steamboat is a worthwhile place to visit because of the flower baskets and the Christmas lights?

Howelsen is what made us Ski Town USA. It is a very special place and should be Steamboat Springs' ski area. The SSWSC does a great job, but it should not be up to them to fund the whole thing.

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exduffer 3 years ago

Do not forget that HH includes the rodeo grounds, tennis courts, volleyball, BMX track, skate park and baseball/softball fields. Oh, did I forget to mention the bike trails that the city does not charge for?

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 3 years ago

"An absence of flower baskets and barrels downtown next summer isn’t acceptable."

REALLY? I've never heard one tourist say they come here for the flower baskets.

So let's see, the paper is for flowers, against HH and SSWSC, against MMJ, and for more taxes.

Howelsen Hill will NEVER be in the black, unless as a community we decide to stop supporting SSWSC.

Flower town USA!

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Kevin Nerney 3 years ago

Before they get a raise are the furloughs going to end? Work less get more sign me up! Someone please explain the difference between salaried employees and hourly ones. As I see it salaried employees (such as city workers) get paid x no matter what. Now they are working 4 days a week yet getting a raise? What am I missing?

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Scott Wedel 3 years ago

I see a consistent pattern in the paper's thinking in editorials. It is all about image. Image of Bike Town USA, image of not having mj, image of flower baskets.

Makes sense than a business dependent upon advertising is so focused on image.

If local mmj dispensaries required customers to have a Colorado mmj license AND be wearing a business suit then I'm sure the paper would support the dispensaries.

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 3 years ago

City employees are getting a 1.5% cost of living "bonus" this year. Wouldn't call it a raise because it's only for this year. Hourly city workers have had their hours cut to 36 per week. That is now the normal work week instead of 40. So basically their incomes were cut 10%. Most city employee's hourly pay has been frozen for the past several years. The only pay increases have come in the form of once a year bonuses, which the city has given to all city employees. Salaried city workers have had their salaries cut 10% but most I assume are still working the same amount of hours before they were cut.

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