Hayden sandwiched on budget
Town falls between solid and shaky outlooks for 2009 finances
October 19, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Hayden falls between Craig and Steamboat Springs in more than one way, according to Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin.
Sure, the 2,000-person municipality is bookended by its larger neighbors on U.S. Highway 40. But Hayden’s budget outlook for next year also rests between the two cities. Craig’s financial forecast could be sunnier, Martin said, because of the town’s Wal-Mart Supercenter and the booming energy economy. Steamboat is looking at cuts amid projected revenue decreases.
Hayden, he explained, is about in the middle.
The town has budgeted for a revenue loss of less than 3 percent, taking the general fund from about $3.7 million projected this year to about $3.6 million expected in 2009. Hayden has been creative in its budgeting for next year, Martin said.
For example, one apparent oddity on the budget worksheet is “half of the cost of a new patrol vehicle.” What the town is doing, Martin said, is planning to put aside that amount for a new vehicle so it can contribute the second half in a later year and buy a new vehicle. The town also buys used equipment when it needs to.
He said the town has been conservative with hirings. For example, Finance Director Lisa Dowling, who builds the budget with Martin, used to be the town clerk and recorder. There was no finance director.
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When Martin decided that the town needed a full-time finance person, he moved Dowling to that role, moved Deputy Clerk Susan Irvine to town clerk and moved Bonnie Carrico, who did administrative duties, to deputy clerk. That, plus some task-sharing, meant the town could fill those positions without adding any full-time staff.
By contrast, Steamboat found itself having to add several staff members after finding that its workers were overloaded, City Council President Loui Antonucci said. But Hayden’s smaller population – and lack of a resort – means it can run with far fewer people.
“Obviously, Steamboat has seen a tremendous amount of growth in the past 10 years, and I think you know when you have growth, there’s more of a demand for services,” Antonucci said. “When people want services, you eventually have to increase staff.”
Steamboat expects to have to make cuts to balance next year’s budget. Although that could mean layoffs, it also could mean leaving open positions unfilled, Antonucci said.
YVRA, weather impacts
Martin said he does not expect to have to lay anyone off. However, he isn’t sure what will happen at the new Hayden Police Station. The facility should be ready by April or May 2009. Carrico is set to move from Town Hall to a new role as police clerk. The town will have to reassess its needs when the building is done, Martin said.
“By the time we have a building, we’ll have a good idea of what our resources are,” he said.
Those depend in part on building permits and on landings at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. The airport provides half the town’s sales tax, Martin said. That money comes mostly from car rentals, fuel sales and souvenir sales, he said.
YVRA business is important in Hayden, he said, though the big money comes from fuel sales. As long as planes touch down, those should stay steady, Martin said.
“The airport is why a lot of our streets are paved and why we do so well on plowing,” he said.
Martin isn’t comfortable, however, having YVRA represent such a large portion of the town’s sales tax income. That’s why he encourages Hayden residents to shop locally.
The weather also could affect next year’s budget. The area saw significant snow last winter, and Martin said he thinks Hayden does a better job of snow plowing than any other town in the Yampa Valley. That excellence comes at a price: It cost $35,000 to $40,000 this year for a town that’s accustomed to paying $12,000 to $15,000, he said.
If income drops, that service could drop, Martin said.
“The cost to maintain what we’ve got continues to rise,” he said.
Regardless, he said he and Dowling were lucky to be able to create a budget that doesn’t require layoffs. Martin said he had sympathy for Steamboat officials who might have to face that process.
“It’s a tough thing to have to do that,” he said. “I can’t imagine having to go through that.”
Steamboat’s problem isn’t one of overstaffing, Antonucci said. But the town might see less activity, which would mean it would need fewer people, he said.
“I think that we have a pretty rigorous budget process, and : I think what we, as the government, always strive to do is meet the needs and the wants of the community within reason,” Antonucci said. “One thing that I think happened is when we looked at the cost of building something : we just looked at what the upfront cost was to provide it, not what the long-term maintenance and upkeep costs were to provide it.”
Budgeting always is tricky, Martin acknowledged. The Hayden Town Board will discuss the budget at workshops Monday and Oct. 27 and is set to make final decisions in early December.
Although he’s confident that the town will be “just fine with what we get,” Martin said it wasn’t always easy.
“This town has gone through some pretty tight times in the past and has survived,” he said.
– To reach Blythe Terrell, call 871-4234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
What: Hayden budget workshops
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday and Oct. 27
Where: Hayden Town Hall