"Now the fun starts," said Rifle Finance Director Charles Kelty as he presented the draft 2013 city budget to the City Council at its Oct. 3 meeting.
The city's spending plan for the coming year now has more than a $1 million gap between estimated general fund revenues and requested expenditures.
"As in the last few years, we don't expect a lot of new revenue," City Manger John Hier told council at its Oct. 3 meeting. "It's another slim and trim budget."
Overall, the city's general fund will not change much over this year's budget, Kelty said.
"If you look at total expenditures versus revenues, it's pretty grim," he added. "But when you look at each department, it's hard to cut any one."
The draft budget lists total general fund revenues of more than $8.7 million by the end of this year, but only slightly more than $7.5 million estimated for the coming year.
Meanwhile, estimated total expenditures for this year are more than $8.5 million, while city departments requested roughly the same level of spending, more than $8.5 million.
A hiring freeze - except to fill a vacated position - will continue in effect, Kelty said.
"The only requested new positions are to make a part-time position in the municipal court and one in the police department full-time," he noted.
Kelty said the biggest increase in the budget will be in the water fund. The city plans to build a new $25 million water treatment plant to replace the aging Graham Mesa plant.
"So we have water revenues going up with the higher water rates," Kelty said. "And the [3/4 of a cent] sales and use tax will affect that, too."
Voters will decide on Nov. 6 if they want to increase the city sales and use tax by 3/4 of a cent to help repay a loan from the Colorado Water and Power Development Authority that will fund construction of the new plant.
Kelty said the fate of that ballot question will determine the final numbers in the water capital fund, estimated at $3.3 million this year. With passage of the sales tax, the draft budget lists $4.1 million and slightly less than that without the sales tax.
Around half of the city's revenue comes from sales and use taxes, Kelty said, followed by intergovernmental revenues, such as shared funding between the city and Garfield School District Re-2 for a school resource officer.
The city estimates sales and use tax revenue to remain roughly the same at almost $4 million. Intergovernmental revenue is estimated at $1.3 million this year, and next year $1.1 million.
City Council began a series of six workshops last week and will wrap those up on Oct. 30. Two public hearings on the budget are scheduled for Nov. 7 and 21, with final adoption and certification of the city mill levy on Dec. 5.
Kelty said the entire draft budget can be viewed on the city web site, rifleco.org, and a printed copy is available at City Hall, 202 Railroad Ave., during regular hours.