While conservative, Hayden budget prioritizes economic diversity | CraigDailyPress.com

While conservative, Hayden budget prioritizes economic diversity

Dylan Anderson / Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Hayden Town Council approved a 2021 budget Thursday, part of an ongoing effort to diversify the local economy and make it clear the town is open for business.

Like many local governments in a pandemic, the budget is a conservative one but does increase general fund expenses from last year by a little over 5%. In total the budget nears $10 million.

“Hayden, despite the year 2020 as a whole, has made some amazing strides in both growth, efficiency and overall positivity as we continue to push forward,” said Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco.

Hayden is trying to look at the budget more like a private business, hoping to tap into a variety of revenue streams and using a performance-based model rather than a zero-based model. For example, Hayden is budgeting revenue from sales tax generated at the airport to make up less of the total sales tax, which previously had made up around 45% of that revenue.

“We want to diversify our sales tax collection so that we are reducing the amount anticipated from the airport to represent only 20% to 25% of the normal total we would get from them,” Mendisco said. “It forces our hand on the economic development side to continue to diversify our sales tax revenue stream.”

Mendisco said the town will focus on attracting new businesses to town, which in turn diversify the property tax base. A more diversified economy also will help with declining tax revenues in the energy sector.

“We are now not anticipating that that revenue stream will ever recover,” Mendisco said. “From the levels we are anticipating it to slowly decline over time, as well as federal mineral release.”

At some point Hayden won’t anticipate any revenues from these sources, he said.

Despite predicting a slight increase in some revenue streams, such as taxes collected, 2020’s overall revenue projection of $6.54 million will be down about $110,000 from what was anticipated before the pandemic.

Some of the town’s funding comes from grants, about $3 million in all, and town leaders anticipate continuing to apply for grants to defray costs.

To cut expenses, Hayden will not be offering employees merit or cost-of-living raises unless there is a full ski season through April. Depending on revenue later in the year, the town may offer a 1.5% cost-of-living raise in June. There are planned 3% to 5% raises in 2022 and 2023.

Economic development is a strong focus of the budget, with several initiatives planned to spur business activity. The business grant program, which is a competition among businesses, and the downtown beautification program are both continuing.

The Hayden Center and Hayden Business Incubator space are both top priorities for the town to assist people in opening and growing businesses in Hayden. The Hayden Center is largely funded by a sales tax measure approved by voters and the incubator through a Colorado Department of Local Affair grant.

“Developing those two facilities will take up a lot of time,” Mendisco said.

Town staff also has been directed to work with the Hayden Economic Development Commission to focus on how best to retain and expand local businesses while also attracting new ones. Hayden is looking to revise economic incentive programs to spur more residential and commercial growth.

The capital improvement part of the Hayden budget is the largest segment when it comes to spending with a price tag of over $3.6 million. Routine replacement of equipment as well as several capital projects makes up the majority of this spending.

Between the start of 2019 to the end of 2021, Hayden has spent nearly $5 million on water- and sewer-related capital improvements, and there is still about $10 million in capital replacements anticipated in the next 15 years, including some water lines that are still clay.

The budget also allocates money for the completion of the design of the U.S. Highway 40 sidewalk project as well, with construction anticipated to start in 2022. Town officials will be relying on grant funding to support some of the project, which is expected to cost upwards of $700,000.

“We’ve done well and that all is attributed to again, the people of Hayden,” Mendisco said. “You all are strong, resilient, and a lot of places can’t claim that right now.”

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