Steamboat Springs City Council to tackle 2013 budget Tuesday
September 30, 2012
Steamboat Springs — If the Steamboat Springs City Council’s recent talks about next year’s budget serve as a guide to its upcoming budget retreat, some council members will be more willing to approve cuts to city services than others.
At a daylong budget retreat Tuesday, the council will weigh in on city management’s proposal to balance its 2013 budget with major cuts to free bus service and a slight restructuring of the fire department.
The budget proposal specifically would cut $350,000 from Steamboat Springs Transit’s budget by eliminating the Yellow Line and nine full-time driving positions, cutting back evening summer bus service and removing 14 stops across the city.
At their Sept. 4 meeting, council members greeted a more drastic proposal to cut $725,000 from the transportation budget with mixed reviews.
Some members said the cuts to services, especially transit, are needed to allow the city to continue building reserve funds for future capital projects in a still uncertain economy.
But other members said that with the city projecting a $1.3 million revenue surplus in 2012, reserve funds could be used to forgo impacting the visitor experience with service reductions.
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"I don’t think I want to make this major slash to transit," council member Walter Magill said. "I don’t think we want to impact our visitor experience to show we can cut the budget."
But council President Bart Kounovsky and members Cari Hermacinski, Kenny Reisman and Scott Myller praised the city for identifying ways it could save costs in the transit department.
The proposed cuts to free bus service, which already have been met by some public opposition, stem from a $600,000 budget shortfall the city must close before the council approves a budget.
The shortfall was created when the city added four major items to its 2013 budget, including $192,717 worth of pay raises for firefighters and paramedics, a $283,511 cost-of-living adjustment for city employees, $163,732 worth of deferred maintenance projects and a transfer of $176,437 from the general fund to capital projects.
To close the shortfall, the city is proposing cutting transit service, reducing the city manager’s contingency fund and economic development budget and replacing two vacant firefighting positions with fire prevention officers at a lower rate of pay.
City Council already has agreed to make a $333,000 debt payment on the Iron Horse Inn from reserves.
"I feel good about the budget we were able to put together," Finance Director Kim Weber said Thursday, adding that it adheres to City Council’s conservative request to budget for 2013 not anticipating any gains in revenue.
Public comment on the proposed budget is scheduled to start at 3:15 p.m.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com