Oak Creek Town Board to educate residents about budget

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— A petition submitted to Oak Creek about management fees for the town’s utilities once again was a topic of interest during the Town Board’s budget work session Thursday night.

The Town Board’s plan to charge management fees on the enterprise funds used to run the town’s utilities has met with opposition from Oak Creek property owner Scott Wedel.

Wedel and former mayor Kathy “Cargo” Rodeman submitted a petition to limit the town to recouping actual costs from the utilities or putting the matter to a public vote.

Because of the timing of the petition, Oak Creek Town Administrator Mary Alice Page-Allen said, the soonest budget year it would affect is 2014. But Town Board members were adamant that it is important to educate the public now about why they think the step is necessary and how it will benefit Oak Creek.

On a whiteboard in the meeting room, Page-Allen had a list of town priorities: utilities, police, streets, administration, and parks and recreation. If cuts might be coming, she said, the town should begin to plan where those cuts should come from first.

However, the hope of the Town Board is that public education can avert significant cuts to services.

“I support what the town is doing,” Ann Trout said. “If (the petition) does move forward, there should be some kind of organization so that communication is provided to people so people have the facts.”

Walt Trout said he would like to see some restrictions put on the potential amount of the fees. The town should not be able to use the utilities as a blank check and assess increasingly larger fees in future years, he said.

“I’ve been here 43 years, and we’ve always taken money out of the electric fund,” Walt Trout said. “And the electric fund basically paid for the town.”

Town Board member Bernie Gagne said he would not entertain the budget without some sort of cap on the amounts.

“Over a decade, we’ve had transfers,” Gagne said. “They literally took the money and dumped it into the general fund. That’s when times were good.

“This is an argument I think we as a Town Board can easily sell to the town. This issue is much bigger than this ballot issue.”

Mayor Nikki Knoebel said the Town Board needs to be out explaining the situation and thinking behind the process regardless of the petition.

“We came because we live here,” Ann Trout said about attending and speaking at Thursday’s meeting. “This is our home. We pay all of the taxes. We’re active in the community. We’re here saying, ‘yes.’"

The public hearing for the town’s 2013 budget is Nov. 8.

“Give me a couple days and the phone book; I’ll fill this room,” Ann Trout said.

In other Town Board action,

• Seasonal police officer Eileen Rossi was presented with a certificate of appreciation from the town.

• A request from two mobile home parks in Oak Creek to be exempted from trash collection fees was denied by the Town Board. The agent for Willow Hill and Oak Creek mobile home parks, Onika Mayer, wrote in a letter to the Town Board that the cost of having trash services for abandoned homes in the parks is a concern. The Oak Creek Town Code allows mobile home parks to request to be classified as commercial establishments and provide their own trash services, Page-Allen said. Trash service bids for Oak Creek also were opened Thursday. There was some discussion about a decrease in the number of pickup sites affecting the price of trash services in future years. Trustees Gagne and Johrene Meyers-Story voted against the motion to deny the exemption.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

The petition is about following TABOR and Colorado citizen's constitutional right to vote on taxes. It is pointless to have TABOR when a Town Board can decide to take more from the utilities than is paid in property and sales taxes combined. It a a loophole because TABOR failed to limit creative use of government enterprises to generate revenues for the general fund. When government can increase utility rates as needed to generate the money to be transferred then it sure looks and acts like a tax. This year that will be how trash rates are set. Will be soon enough before that is how water, sewer and electricity rates will be set.

If Town has previously taken money from the utilities and that is so popular then put an utility tax on the ballot so it can be approved. And then the Town can have a stable source of revenues and the public can have an idea of how much they will be paying in utilities.

It would be odd to have a large demonstration of people at a Town Board meeting arguing against the public's right to vote on Town's use of alternate revenue streams.

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Michael Schrantz 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott,

I did not write nor imply that anyone suggested having a demonstration arguing against the public's right to vote on any issue. Those present at the Town Board meeting talked about educating the public about the town's budget.

If you have any questions, contact me at 970-871-4206.

Michael Schrantz

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

“Give me a couple days and the phone book; I’ll fill this room,” Ann Trout said.

Okay, I'll acknowledge from the context of the article that it is actually never stated what would be the point of filling the room. But from her other quotes in the article, it is clear she does not support the petition.

In fact, with all the discussion on setting limits on how much is to be transferred suggests they all should read and sign the petition. The petition is the best way to set limits since then a Town Board cannot simply allocate what they wish and need voter approvals. It is not expected that Town would make a budget and then seek voter approvals of how much is being transferred. No, the right way to budget is for Town Board to put an utility tax on the ballot and budget based upon voter approved revenue streams.

I also find it curious that now they decide to educate the public on the budget process. They did not say anything about the utility transfer in any of the town newsletters when they came up with the idea. They did not hold any board meetings asking for public input on the right way to come up with more money than property or sales taxes combined.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

And yes, it is too late for the petition to do anything about the 2013 budget. By not communicating their plans, they have gotten too far long in the 2013 budget plans to stop their scheme of using utility money.

At least it is not too late for the 2014 budget.

And that is why the petition is not focused on particular items in a budget or some blanket statement prohibiting transfers, but to require voter approval of transfer. Thus, whatever new amount of revenue is determined to be needed then has to be approved as if it were a TABOR tax instead of using a loophole.

The petition intentionally does not propose an utility tax of some amount because I cannot guess at what Town Board thinks is the needed amount of funding. The 2013 budget has similar property and sales tax revenues as 2012 and yet was able to put together a 2012 budget and needs $180,040 from the utilities for the 2013 general fund. The 2014 budget is going to face a serious decline in property values. I have no idea how much utility money they think is going to be needed for that general fund.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 10 months ago

Max, I don't know.

I so rarely understand Town Board decisions. One meeting they allow someone to build a fence well into the right of way against the advice of Public Works. So maybe a bit of live and let live philosophy. Next meeting they turn down the mobile home parks request to arrange their own trash service. On a theory that all must conform. There was no question that mobile home parks were going to receive proper trash collection. No, they are being made to pay into the more expensive Town contract than arrange their own service.

That would be like telling someone looking into installing solar panels that it is not allowed to avoid using the Town's monopoly electric service.

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