Steamboat Springs to increase spending, trim services despite higher budget
October 5, 2011
Steamboat Springs — While some city services are being reduced in 2012, Steamboat Springs' general fund expenditures are almost $2 million higher next year than what the city expects to spend this year.
Finance Director Deb Hinsvark told Steamboat Springs City Council members during an all-day budget hearing Tuesday that the city budgeted expenditures to increase to $24.6 million, about 8.5 percent higher than this year.
Some City Council members initially questioned the increased spending because they asked Hinsvark to budget a 5 percent reduction in sales tax revenues, Steamboat's primary revenue source.
City Council President Cari Hermacinski expressed concern with the spending after several consecutive years of cuts.
Hinsvark said that despite the increase in spending next year, the city's reserves were increasing to $15.7 million, of which $9 million are unrestricted.
"I think you've really made some tough decisions and held the line well to achieve what's been achieved," Hinsvark said.
At the end of the budget hearing, which lasted more than eight hours, City Council members unanimously approved the budget with suggested changes. The changes will be discussed further during upcoming first and second readings of the 2012 budget. Hinsvark has said the City Council would consider the budget on second and final reading Nov. 8, after the election.
Hinsvark said the additional spending is possible because the city projects sales tax revenues to exceed $17 million by the end of 2011, about $2.4 million more than what was budgeted. Of the surplus, the City Council has approved about $600,000 in supplemental spending requests. The remainder is going to reserves, which will allow Steamboat to spend more next year.
Hinsvark said $946,500 of the $2 million in increased spending budgeted for 2012 will be to pay to move the fixed-base operator and redevelop the terminal at Steamboat Springs Airport as part of the SmartWool lease extension. The merino wool outfitter will repay that amount with interest throughout the next 10 years.
The remaining $1 million in increased spending will be for projected increased costs, including for insurance and fuel, Hinsvark said. She said the city again would budget a $235,000 contingency for emergencies, such as weather, and $125,000 to promote economic development.
And despite the additional sales tax revenue generated this year and increased expenditures next year, Hinsvark said the city is reducing some services.
"Everything is increasing, but we can't provide the budget that directors wanted initially," she said.
Hinsvark said department directors submitted budgets in July, which had to be cut by more than $700,000. She said the cuts primarily would impact Steamboat Springs Transit and the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department.
The proposed Steamboat Springs Transit changes include starting free winter bus service to coincide with the beginning of winter airline service to Yampa Valley Regional Airport in early December, instead of when Steamboat Ski Area opens around Thanksgiving.
The proposed changes to the Parks and Recreation Department include reducing the hours at Howelsen Hill (from 1 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to 1 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, 1 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, 3:45 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).
Other reductions include eliminating the city's annual Easter egg hunt, holiday party, some senior programs and the hanging flower baskets along Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat.
But Parks and Recreation Department Director Chris Wilson said the city is working with groups to maintain those programs and services at existing levels.
In addition to collaboration with other organizations and privatization of some services, measures to sustain some of those cut programs include finding new revenue sources, restructuring parts of the city, replacing manual operations with technology, reworking existing contracts and leasing instead of purchasing capital equipment.
Hinsvark said city staff would present ideas this year for possible implementation in 2013.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com