New department proposed for city of Craig during budget workshop | CraigDailyPress.com

New department proposed for city of Craig during budget workshop

CRAIG — A new Department of Economic Development is part of the proposed 2019 Craig city budget, which was discussed during a workshop Thursday, Oct. 4, involving  city council members and city staff.

The proposed general fund expenditures of $10,289,780 would represent a 0.7 percent increase from the current year. Revenues to the general fund are projected at $10,680,360, or 14.3 percent higher than in 2018. This will leave the city with a fund balance of 49.3 percent, to include a 25-percent reserve.

After adding increases or $14,786,415 to expenditures in the water, wasterwater, solid waste, capital projects, ACET, and medical benefits funds, the total city budget expenditures would be $25,076,195, representing a 7.5 percent increase from 2018.

One of the most notable changes between the 2019 proposed budget and 2018 budget is the possible addition of a city Department of Economic Development.

For many years, the city has partially funded the Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership, which evolved from a Craig Chamber of Commerce committee into a standalone 501(c)(6) nonprofit that has struggled year to year to secure funding.

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In introducing the concept of a new Department of Economic Development, Mayor John Ponikvar cited a National Association of Counties 2014 report, which suggests economic development has become a core service to be provided by counties.

“We understand that our county probably won’t invest, given their budget difficulties,” Ponikvar said. The city proposes to spend $162,800 for a director and half administrator position to be shared with the city manager, and would still leave a “46-percent carryover,” he said.

Council members pondered the implications for CMEDP, the role of the current director and board, benefits the community has reaped from CMEPD, and whether other positions, such as a grant writer position, might be more beneficial.

“It’s a visionary department we are looking to create,” said City Council member, CMEDP liason and CMEDP board member Derek Duran. “I understand the concerns. If we are not going to spearhead economic development, I'm not sure who is. I'm not sure we can keep a full-time grant writer going.”

The council directed staff to keep the department in the draft budget for now, with the provision that additional research and discussion will provide a deeper look into the specifics of the new department.

"The board of directors is open to a potential organizational restructuring to strengthen our local economic development efforts. This discussion is one at its beginning stages that we are eager to explore with the city of Craig. As a 501(c)(6) organization, we represent our members and would engage with those businesses, organizations, and individuals before making any formal steps,” said Rich Thompson, vice chairman of the CMEDP Board of Directors. “We actively seek ways to collaborate with other entities in our community, and this proposal falls right in line with those efforts to share resources and build a strong foundation for growing our local economy."

The city will continue to make changes to the proposed budget until its adoption at City Council’s second regular meeting in November, for submission to the county before Dec. 15.

A copy of the Proposed 2019 Annual City of Craig Budget is available in the online version of this story or at ci.craig.co.us/departments/finance_department.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.