Council backs off budget cuts |

Council backs off budget cuts

Funding for Glenwood Springs recreation offerings and programs such as Summer of Jazz and YouthZone appear safe from threats of budget cuts.

City Council Thursday decided against deep cuts in its recreation programs, and eliminating discretionary funds that go to programs such as Summer of Jazz and YouthZone, a nonprofit serving youths and parents.

However, council avoided the cuts partly by doing away with vendor fees, under which businesses are paid for collecting sales tax for the city. Council previously had considered capping the fees at $100 a month, which would have affected only the 27 largest vendors in town.

In addition, council decided to pursue new revenues by increasing, to 3 percent from 2 percent, its utility franchise fees and utility payments in lieu of taxes. Payments in lieu of taxes replace taxes that would be paid if the city had investor-owned rather than municipal-owned utilities. Franchise fees are charged for use of city rights of way.

The proposed budget cuts had drawn opposition from city residents who supported the recreation programs, and offerings such as Summer of Jazz.

Summer of Jazz organizer Bob Noone thanked council for deciding against cuts that he said could have brought an end to the musical series.

“Thanks very much for keeping it alive,” he said.

The budget approved by council Thursday passed by a 5-2 vote.

Council member Larry Beckwith, before voting “no,” expressed concern over eliminating the vendor fee.

“We ask businesses to collect the sales tax for us and then we don’t pay them anything?” he asked.

Council member Chris McGovern also opposed the plan, and said, “We have just tonight passed taxes, without any vote, of $423,000.”

The budget, even when the cuts were being considered, included increased revenues from hikes in ambulance fees, cable franchise fees and police and parking fines, as well as the capped vendors fees.

It remains to be seen how much of the increased charges that the city plans to assess on its own utilities might be passed on to consumers. The city is currently studying the rates it charges for the municipally operated electricity, water and sewer services. The electric system currently generates a sizable surplus that is used to supplement the general fund. City officials want to end that subsidy, and the electric system might be able to absorb increased utility charges from the city without having to raise rates.

Council members emphasized that the city’s budget picture would change if voters reject a proposed half-cent sales tax measure for street maintenance and improvements Nov. 1. A quarter-cent tax expires at the end of the year, and the city would have to dip into general funds to pay for street projects if the tax measure fails.

“This is only going to be as good as what happens on Nov. 1,” council member Dave Merritt said of the budget package council approved Thursday night.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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