The beautification of medians on Mount Werner Circle, including this one in front of the Gondola Transit Center, is expected to be part of a $240,000 project this summer.

Photo by John F. Russell

The beautification of medians on Mount Werner Circle, including this one in front of the Gondola Transit Center, is expected to be part of a $240,000 project this summer.

City officials project urban renewal authority funding will be scarce for future base area projects

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— City officials told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night that funding for base area improvements from the urban renewal authority will be scarce for at least the next three to four years.

Finance Director Kim Weber said the tax incremental funding that has paid for the popular promenade and millions of dollars' worth of other improvements in recent years is not likely to be strong enough to support any more major projects until significant development takes place or property values rebound.

The deflated financial outlook for the URA wasn't well received by some council members.

Cari Hermacinski said the outlook was distressing because a financial outlook of the URA in 2010 projected it would be able to pay off its debt service and have reserve funding despite the prospect of no new development at the base area and declining property values.

City officials said the recent drops in assessed property values have been higher than what was anticipated three years ago.

Still, they predicted even with an upcoming projected double digit drop in property values, the URA should be able to meet or almost meet its debt service but not generate any additional revenue for improvement projects.

The financial outlook came on the same night the council approved the use of $100,000 in URA reserve funds to allow for the completion of more priority projects slated to start this summer at the base area.

The projects include $240,000 in landscaping at the base area and on Mount Werner Circle along with signage improvements in Ski Time Square, among other things.

The URA's capital budget for the base area projects this year totals $582,355.

The extra $100,000 will come out of a reserve fund that totals $1.3 million.

Also on Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs Redevelopment Authority took a step toward mending some recent tension with its Urban Renewal Authority Advisory Committee by endorsing the hiring of a new project manager for the upcoming construction projects.

Steve Frasier and other URAAC members told the council the position would help to improve some recent communication issues between the city and the volunteer group that has helped oversee base area projects since 2007.

Council members said it was important to support the base area projects.

“This is our economic engine,” Hermacinski said about the base area. “Let's not turn our backs on it. I want city staff to be all in on this project, and if we can't because of cutbacks and furlough days, we need to find someone” to help manage the projects.

The council and URAAC spent some time discussing other issues, including some concern from the city about the additional maintenance and operation costs it has incurred because of the improvements.

“If we've got the city on one side saying it wants to keep operation and maintenance costs down and the base area (stakeholders) saying we want something that's top of the line, it's going to be a future point of contention until (the URA funding expires) in 16 years,” council President Bart Kounovsky said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

I was at the meeting.

What happened between 2010 and now is that the current situation is worse than the City's worse case financial analysis in 2010.

And thus, City's analysis is apparently that since the current situation is worse than should have been possible then the situation will soon recover to be within City's worse case situation.

If the situation doesn't improve to be within the City's prior estimates of worse case scenarios then the bond payments for base area improvements will exceed revenues so reserves or city general funds will be needed to make up the difference.

And good thing Mark or Tom weren't there or they would have had a meltdown when the City talked about finding money for a contact person for the base area and the city. In what started off as a being a very tight budget suddenly become a $2M budget with enough slop to hire a contact person and do the desired projects. Except City Finance conveniently does not say that $1.5M of the $2M are bond payments that are known to the penny and are not going to change.

But it is not a $2M budget, but $1,8M that is likely to be reduced by about 20% next year due to lower property values. So budget for 2014 and 2015 should be about $1.5M which is their bond payment.

So, in reality, City Finance was up there saying there is enough slop in a $0 discretionary budget to do the desired projects and hire a contractor to be a contact person.

But the base area is the "economic engine" of the City and money on medians will be spent. It went without question that it is more important to have pretty medians with added $40K per year gardening medians expense than putting money to reserves to deal with the upcoming budget squeeze.

Oh well, soon enough that will be consuming general fund money and City will be telling us how hard it is to put a budget together and the hard choices. And the public is expected to forget that City just spent money on projects that have ongoing maintenance costs and surely we aren't going to build something new and fail to maintain it.

City finance also put up an interesting chart comparing city spending per capita among various cities. Steamboat spends about $490 per resident. Colorado Springs somehow spends $53. Last time I looked, Colorado Springs was not some hellhole. Makes me very curious how Colorado Springs could be spending 89% less per resident than SB.

Other cities also spent less than SB's and really drove home the idea that SB's "tight" budget could be cut deeply and still operate a decent city. Just goes to show how easily spending easily increases to whatever revenues are. And then quickly enough the spending all becomes "essential".

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cindy constantine 1 year, 7 months ago

What about Bike Town, USA--I thought that was the new "economic" driver. If you talk with downtown merchants, July closely matches March in gross retail sales. Relying on good snow year after year with an aging skier population is problematic. Scott, when you run for Council, I will vote for you as I trust you will get our "spending" problem under control : )

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cindy constantine 1 year, 7 months ago

Mark---good point . . . he prob would not "play well with others" as my 3rd teacher always accused me of...: )

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 7 months ago

But what is never publicly said is that the base area district is basically free money for the city since it takes property tax money that would go elsewhere such as the local schools. So, as was said indirectly by base area people, this improvements to the public right of ways were stuff that the City should have done anyway.

So if base area doesn't have the money for the contact person then there really is no problem with financing it from the general fund.

City of SB doesn't really have any sort of budget problems because it gets so much sales tax money. They are so awash with money that spending an additional $40,000 per year on landscaping is called "essential". No one notices that the mountain is the economic driver during the winter when the landscaping is under snow. That the summer is driven by downtown, not the mountain.

But is enough money generated by the mountain that they should get improvements like what the City has done for downtown? Yeah, probably fair since City has lots of discretionary spending.

The challenge will be when the City comes searching for a property tax to pay for storm water drainage system neglected maintenance or for new police and fire stations. Which could be paid from the existing budget by cutting elsewhere.

I'd never run for like City Council just to sit there and be the annoying one. I'd only consider running as part of a coalition running to make big changes.

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Clay Ogden 1 year, 7 months ago

"I'd never run for like City Council just to sit there and be the annoying one. I'd only consider running as part of a coalition running to make big changes."

That's a cheap cop out. Stand up and be the loyal opposition in a position that matters if you have something to say ... as you often do.

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