Craig’s proposed budget invests heavily in capital projects designed to protect essential services, promote economic growth
Despite early concerns about the number of proposed capital projects, officials in Craig have created a balanced budget with heavy investments in capital projects.
After several budget workshops and an all-day retreat on Oct. 6, the 2023 proposed budget is posted online and will have three readings before City Council before the budget can be approved. There will be an opportunity for public comments on the proposed budget during council’s first meeting in November.
According to the proposed budget, the city is expected to receive $24.9 million in projected revenue and have $24.9 million in proposed expenses for 2023. The primary revenue sources for the city are 46% intergovernmental ($11.4 million) and 35% city sales tax ($8.8 million). The city’s remaining revenue comes from the county sales tax and property taxes, along with other taxes, licenses and permits, charges for services, fines, contributions and other miscellaneous sources.
Annual expenses for the year are reported as 53% capital outlay, 31% in personnel expenses and 15% in operations and maintenance. Of the proposed 2023 expenses, $13.2 million is slated to maintain, upgrade, acquire and repair capital assets, with over half of that amount being covered with grant funding.
Over the last decade, Craig has seen a steady increase in grant funding with $207,587 reported in 2013 and more than $6 million reported in 2022. There is also a 9% increase in sales tax collections, which City Manager Peter Brixius said more closely mirrors inflationary effects.
In the executive summary, Brixius expressed confidence the city has put together a fiscally responsible plan for the coming year, but he also acknowledged some of the challenges ahead.
“It is difficult to interpret how Craig’s future economic projections will look as there are ongoing concerns and daily reports about the impacts of inflation, supply chain, ongoing pandemic impacts and in general the economic instability we feel as part of our daily experience,” Brixius wrote in the budget summary.
With sales tax being a significant revenue source, should sales tax indicators shift negatively over the next six months, city officials may recommend delaying certain capital projects and new hires budgeted for 2023.
A focus on capital infrastructure
The focus on capital projects, Brixius said, will invest in critical infrastructure to support a long-term vision for recreational and economic growth in Craig. The Yampa River Corridor Project, estimated to cost $5 million with all but $650,000 coming from other funding sources, aims to grow recreational opportunities in the city and create local jobs.
Many of the proposed capital projects are aimed at developing housing infrastructure and creating amenities to maintain and grow the local workforce. The 2023 budget includes grant funded infrastructure upgrades to vacant public properties that were identified for potential housing development through the housing needs assessment and action plan.
Council has also proposed spending $24,000 on marketing and outreach for these properties for prospective housing developers. The Economic Development Advisory Committee will lead those efforts, as well as marketing to business developers for other downtown properties including the old courthouse, and the former Golden Cavy and Spicy Basil restaurants.
City officials have also identified American Rescue Plan Act funding to support business grants, Alice Pleasant Park improvements and City Park improvements and planning for the pool complex.
The Craig Parks and Recreation department continues to improve existing facilities and has plans for several improvements at Woodbury Park with grant funding from Great Outdoors Colorado.
The city is looking at several possibilities including acquiring land to the east of Woodbury to expand recreational opportunities for all ages, adding additional parking, finishing improvements to the existing shelter and ballfields, and adding a trail system to Loudy-Simpson Park.
Craig Road and Bridge also submitted budget requests to fund a master plan for sidewalks on the west end of the city from Green St. to Colorado Highway 13 on Victory Way, and to repair damaged sidewalks in the 600-800 blocks of Yampa Avenue, which is funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Road and Bridge also plans to improve the North Park parking area and begin paving alleyways to improve alternative access to properties; both projects should be completed in-house using the new paving machine and save on costs.
The proposed capital projects also address projects that are essential to maintaining services in the community. ARPA funding has been set aside for police officer training, sewer line improvements and distribution system line improvements.
The city water enterprise has identified several improvements that will be needed in 2023, including backup generators for the water and wastewater treatment plant, a major improvement to the master control electrical panel and a significant sewer line replacement project.
The majority of the cost of the water and wastewater projects is anticipated to be covered by grants and from increased revenue from rate increases that were approved by City Council in 2018.
The city plans to continue to invest in the development of patrol, investigation and school resource officers within Moffat County schools. In addition to an additional staff member, Craig Police also submitted capital item requests for new patrol laptops and citation equipment to bring patrol vehicles up-to-date with industry standards and make day-to-day operations more efficient for officers.
“The impacts of supply chain and inflation are especially concerning as it relates to the stability of the city’s employees and projections of capital needs,” Brixius said. “A good deal of effort is and will be spent monitoring these effects to revenues, compensation requirements and capital project costs.”
Brixius said city officials do not anticipate any substantial changes to the budget during the first quarter of 2023 because of the carry-over budgets from 2022. Department heads have been asked to closely monitor operation expenses to ensure the budget is as accurate as possible.
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