City Public Works budget to stay much the same
Glenwood Springs should see little change to its Public Works budget in 2021.
“Staffing stays pretty much the same, very similar to what it has been in the past. And you won’t really see a lot of changes to the operating budget. It’s a pretty stable, pretty consistent operating budget from one year to the next,” Chief Operating Officer Steve Boyd said.
City Council will discuss the Public Works budget at a work session starting at 4 p.m. Thursday. It’s the first of four work sessions devoted to the 2021 budget.
With a forecast 10% drop in sales tax revenues as compared to the 2020 budget, Boyd said there isn’t room for bells and whistles.
“The 2021 budget is focused mainly on basic city, basic operations and infrastructure improvements,” he said. “We’re not doing a lot of sexy stuff in 2021; we’re taking care of day-to-day business, and that’s what this budget reflects.”
The budget includes one large, new project.
“A lot of what you’re seeing in the 2021 budget are 2020 projects we just didn’t get to this year. The big exception to that is the electric operations building. We do have $2.5 million in the budget this year to design and build that building. So that wasn’t in the 2020 budget, that’s a new 2021 item,” Boyd said.
The electric department has been without a permanent home since the city moved employees out of the municipal operations center in West Glenwood in 2019.
“We’re leasing on a short-term basis a facility for [the electric department] to operate out of, but they really do need a facility that they can both base operations out of and have storage for their vehicles,” Boyd said.
“The land for that was purchased quite a few years ago,” city manager Debra Figueroa said.
Another large project will continue into 2021: reconstruction of South Midland.
“We are still going forward with South Midland, which is a huge and critical project,” Figueroa said.
“That’s a big one, and it will take more than a year to do it, but we’re going to make a lot of progress I think in 2020,” Boyd said.
Not all the news is good.
“Residents will probably continue to see a lower level of service due to fiscal constraints,” Figueroa said. “Our parks department has taken a pretty big hit through COVID-19. … I think we’ve really stepped up our overall maintenance of parks over the last couple of years. [But] when you don’t have the same employee base you had in 19 it’s impossible to keep up with the level of work we did in 20.”
“Usage of our parks has gone way up as a result of COVID, so it’s harder for us to empty trash cans as frequently even though we need to empty them more frequently now,” Boyd said.
The city is also studying water and electric rates.
“This year we are doing a study on rates to include capital expenses. … Cities are aging with aging infrastructure, so the study we’re doing this year and will bring back to council will include rate proposals starting next year. … We’re definitely looking at that as a way to preserve our infrastructure,” Figueroa said.
That could lead to rate increases in 2021 or the following year.
“There are no rate increases in water or electric that are built into this budget, although we do expect when that study is done council will have an opportunity to review the results of that, and I would expect you’d see some changes to electric and water and wastewater rates,” Boyd said.
Boyd said if COVID-19 doesn’t flare up again locally Glenwood will get through it fairly well.
“We’re kind of lucky in that we’re a regional shopping hub here, so we have big-box retailers and stuff that provides a little bit of a floor to our tax base. We’re not just a tourism economy, so we’re not going to be hit probably quite as hard as some other municipalities. I think if we can keep the COVID thing under control and not have to re-shutdown we’ll probably be able to weather this OK,” he said.
Boyd said the budget will likely be 10% lower than last year’s, matching the expected drop in tax revenue.
“It’s actually a pretty boring budget this year. It’s an easy budget year just because there’s not a lot of money to wrestle with decisions over,” Boyd said.
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Garfield County counted five new deaths attributed to COVID-19 over the past six weeks, even as the county’s vaccination rate continues to go up.