Oak Creek focuses on making it through the lean years | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek focuses on making it through the lean years

Michael Schrantz

— Oak Creek Town Administrator Mary Alice Page-Allen said she's been working on the budget for about six weeks. But the rest of the summer might as well be lumped into that tally. With Oak Creek facing a substantial dropoff in property tax revenue, many recent town decisions are being considered with an eye toward a looming new fiscal reality.

As Page-Allen wrote in the town's August newsletter, the projected drop in property tax revenue could be as large as 60 percent in 2014 and 2015, the years when the recent depressed property valuation takes effect.

"We can manage. We have to manage," Page-Allen said. "2014 and 2015 are going to be very frugal years, and there's nothing wrong with being frugal."

Two issues at the forefront of the town's agenda are law enforcement and its utilities.

Oak Creek's recent law enforcement issues stem from the resignation of its lone officer in May and the costs associated with remedying the staffing shortage cited by Officer Lance Dunaway as a reason for leaving. Initial talks with Routt County about contracting for law enforcement led to similar cost estimates as the town projected for hiring two officers. While discussions with the county are ongoing, the town has decided to start searching for candidates to form its own police department again.

A rate study of the electric utility recently was completed, and a study of the town's water utility also is in the works. Page-Allen said the town does not project rate increases for either utility at this point. The preliminary electric rate study report stated that Oak Creek could put off any rate increases till as late as 2017 or later. After listening to a presentation of the report at its last meeting, the Town Board decided against any rate increases. While the water utility currently is the town's poorest, Page-Allen said, it also looks to avoid rate increases and just had a major capital improvement wrap up with the construction of the town's new water tower. The town also is looking to leverage grant money for other improvements such as replacement of the water distribution system and the installation of more water meters, Page-Allen said.

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Page-Allen said the town will continue to make fiscally responsible choices, even if it has to dip into reserves.

"That's what reserves are about," she said. "To make sure the town can manage through lean years."

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

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