Cash in Craig: 2020 city budget earmarks dollars for new projects
The city of Craig unveiled its proposed 2020 budget Thursday bolstered by revenues from the city’s recently passed sales tax.
The budget sets aside more than $2 million for another Craig Police Department patrol officer and four replacement vehicles, economic development, heavy equipment and storm infrastructure for the city’s road and bridge department, wave pool improvements, and engineering for a new white water rapid diversion structure on the Yampa River. There is also about $1.6 million in new grants the city plans to use for an innovation center, river improvement, and wastewater/sewer projects.
Finance Director Bruce Nelson helped lead the Craig City Council and department heads through a marathon 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. workshop Thursday that broke down the budget by the numbers. Nelson said the city’s sales tax passed in 2017 helped fund a host of new projects and street maintenance.
“For the 2020 budget, looks like the revenue are coming in as we anticipated,” Nelson said Thursday during a budget workshop retreat at Craig Hotel. “The sales tax increased about $2 million, so we can continue to provide the services we said we would. That’s a full force on the police department, their staffing. That’s Parks and Rec. We’ve provided all the facilities our citizens wanted, and of course provided money to keep our streets to the standard we’re used to. There’s money there for projects council can do for citizens that’ve been talked about, whether it’s the improvements to sidewalks or improvements to the community through economic development projects downtown.”
Compared to Craig’s 2017 general fund of about $8.3 million, 2020’s proposed general fund budget is up to about $11.4 million. All of the city’s combined funds are budgeted to hold almost $23 million in 2020 compared to 2017’s actual combined accounts of almost $16 million.
The revenues from the city’s new sales tax combined with county sales taxes make up a majority of Craig’s general fund, but the budgeted dollars for the city’s water, wastewater, solid waste, and medical benefits funds have also increased since 2017.
“60 to 70 percent of the revenue coming into the general fund comes from city and county sales tax,” Nelson said Thursday.
As council made its way to a lunch break, Councilman Paul James said he’d like to see the city keep some of that money and not spend it.
“I would like to see a surplus left for the beginning of 2021,” James said. “…Hopefully when we’re done, we’ve got some money left over.”
But James also wants to spend money now so taxpayers won’t have to later.
“I do see the importance of a lot of stuff, and why we can’t put off a bunch of maintenance projects because it becomes more expensive down the road,” James said.
James wants vital city infrastructure made a priority.
“I think given the tax increase, is to spend that on infrastructure,” James said. “I prefer to keep it within the city’s jurisdiction. I’m all in favor of maintaining these roads and having these sidewalks, as long as it’s city infrastructure.”
Councilman Chris Nichols is no stranger to budget workshops. He said the city’s 2020 budget is a balancing act between spending and saving.
“I think we need to maintain money, a reserve as projects come up because everything requires a match and seed money to go with it, even on a regional level,” Nichols said. “And we’ve got to have the funds to do that if we want to diversify our economy… but we have to spend money on maintenance with what we do have, so it’s a fine balancing act.”
Nichols said he’s trying to fulfill his constituents’ wishes.
“We promised voters when we brought the sales tax issue to them we would spend the money on things the community wanted — police, Parks and Rec, maintain our amenities, and we need to do that,” Nichols said. “That’s in the budget. Parks and Rec have a lot of requests for items they need and so does street maintenance for maintenance on our streets.”
Nichols said voters will begin to see visible signs in the coming year of their tax dollars at work.
“We’re trying to spend that on visible projects, economic development, and that kind of thing,” Nichols said.
An abundance of wintertime powder Saturday afternoon only made the atmosphere feel all the more Christmas-y in Alice Pleasant Park.