City Council to review 2006 budget | SteamboatToday.com

City Council to review 2006 budget

Dana Strongin

Steamboat Springs City Council members will be crunching and shuffling numbers today, and the public is invited to attend.

The council will be reviewing the proposed 2006 budget throughout the day. City staff members have been working on the budget since June.

The budget is giving city officials a little more cash to spend than they’ve had for the past few years, since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. General fund expenditures increase about 3 percent from 2005. Department leaders also were given budgets that are 5 percent larger than they had in 2005.

The increase is in part funded by a healthy sales tax, city officials said. Sales tax revenues are expected to increase by about 7 percent this year from last year.

“Things are improving somewhat. Sales tax is growing again — for a few years it was flat,” said Don Taylor, the city’s director of financial services.

City Council President Paul Strong said this year is an improvement over years past.

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“We are starting to catch up. We’ve been really behind since the recession following 9/11,” Strong said.

Taylor noted even though departments had more money to work with, they are in part playing catch-up.

“There’s been three or four years of budget consolidation for most departments. One hundred five percent is just maintaining last year’s level,” Taylor said.

Strong said the city was in a different position than private businesses during recent recession periods.

“The issue for the city has been that our business is actually up because our population is growing. We’re serving more people,” Strong said. “Even in a recession, we’ve had more people to serve, and more demands have been placed on the city.”

Requests for community support from organizations went up more than 20 percent from last year.

“The biggest challenge every year is community support. So many worthwhile groups in our town come and ask for money; it’s hard to choose between them,” Strong said.

Strong said he hopes the council will have a discussion today about the city’s purpose in providing community support.

“Do we fund a small amount to the whole bunch? Do we only support new organizations?” Strong said. “I’m going to try and have that discussion.”

Strong said he would like to see the city set a percentage of the budget for community support.

“If the city grows, we should be able to help more groups,” he said. “If we’re growing by 5 percent, they should increase by 5 percent.”

Strong said he also expects council members to spend some time discussing a wish list created by city departments. The list includes items that the departments want but have not fit into their budgets.

Strong said he expects council members to cut items any time they plan on adding them.

“It’s incumbent upon us to do some of that,” he said.

The council also is expected to dedicate time to discussing capital improvement projects.

Council members are scheduled to see the budget again Oct. 18, when members will conduct a first reading of the budget as an ordinance. The second reading will be in November.

— To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

The budget retreat is set to last from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today in Centennial Hall.

The public comment session is scheduled from 2 to 2:30 p.m.