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City begins budget process

'Flat' revenues mean little room for growth

Christina M. Currie

Preliminary figures have the city of Craig spending 2.24 percent more this year than last year, while revenues are projected to grow 1.15 percent.

The difference is primarily made up by money budgeted last year, but not spent, including several grants the city was awarded.

The Craig City Council spent the day Thursday making bottom-line and philosophical discussions the first step in the approval of the 2003 budget as each department struggled to stay within the no-growth parameter outlined by City Manager Jim Ferree.

“We projected revenue flat again,” he said. “We hope the construction project at Tri-State will result in an increase in revenue. We’re not banking on that happening, but if it does happen, we’ll have an easier time budgeting next year.”

Most departments budgeted to spend more this year and the amount spent on capital projects construction, vehicle purchases and equipment increased 18.9 percent.

The increases will be paid for using some of the city’s $1,454,840 reserve.

Three departments budgeted less than was spent last year. The

judicial department saw a decrease of one employee with two administrative employees sharing the workload, cutting that budget by 44.37 percent.

Both the community development and the Road and

Bridge Department had minor decreases.

Other budget discussions

included:

Grand Olde West Days

Grand Olde West Days committee members have cancelled the annual Memorial Weekend celebration because of a lack of participation. They are looking at alternatives, such as combing some GOWD events with the Moffat County Fair, but those plans have not yet been solidified.

In the meantime, the Craig City Council makes an annual $8,500 loan to the committee, which, until this year, has been paid back following the event.

According to Ferree, revenues were down this year and the GOWD committee is not able to repay the entire amount. They believe the sale of some equipment will make up the difference and plan to reimburse the city.

The city included the loan in the 2003 budget, but does not expect to use it.

“The money we give we should earmark for another city event,” Mayor Dave DeRose said. “Maybe for Whiddle da Wood or an event in July.”

Road and Bridge Department revenues

The city lost $25,000 in revenue last year when the county decided not to designate a portion of its mill levy to its road and bridge department. Instead of designating that money, the county opted to fund the department solely from the general fund.

By state statute the county is required to give a portion of its levy for the road and bridge department to the city for its road and bridge department.

According to finance department director Bruce Nelson, he’s had no word from the county as to whether the practice will continue and how long the city will be without that revenue source.

Community development

Busy spring and summer months have building inspector Dave Costa hopping, but that’s made up by slower winter months, which cannot justify the hiring of another employee in his department, he said.

Councilor Bill Johnston asked whether Costa needed a full-time city planner, but Costa said he couldn’t justify it at this time.

Costa plans to rework some procedures that should help balance the workload. He will address planning and zoning issues in the winter, leaving his summer’s open for construction issues and building inspections.

“We’re trying to adopt a new policy out of my office to deal with the workload,” he said.

The council suggested he bring in an intern over the summer to help with the workload and retrain contractors to not expect Costa to be on-site immediately when they call.

“Speaking from the contracting community, we’re way, way pampered,” DeRose said. “If you’re operating in any other county in Colorado, you don’t get this kind of service.”

Johnston said he wanted to be forward thinking and not wait until there was trouble before considering an increase in staff size.

Vehicles

The city will lease or purchase 13 new vehicles and attachments this year at a cost of $488,465 as part of its fleet replacement program. Policy dictates that vehicles be replaced every 10 years, but this year’s flat budget prompted questions of retaining some vehicles past the 10-year time period.

“If we’re in good financial shape, it’s OK to roll over in 10 years,” DeRose said. “In a flat budget, we could buy a year or two if it runs good.”

Road and Bridge Department Director Randy Call said that could be done with one or two vehicles per department, but it creates problems with the rotation and results in the city buying more vehicles in a certain year than it should.

Ferree asked Call to rank all vehicles and see which ones the city can hold onto.

“That’s a good idea. I’d like to have a policy where we don’t even consider replacing vehicles for 10 years, then rate them on the need for replacement,” Johnston said.

Call said once criteria are established, the city has to stick with them.

“Whatever the criteria is, you have to be hard-nosed about it,” he said. “Your fleet just keeps getting older and your risk for maintenance keeps going up.”


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