Landfill reserves may keep city budget from being trashed |

Landfill reserves may keep city budget from being trashed

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” More than $1.5 million in landfill reserve funds likely will be spent during the next two years to offset declining tax revenues.

City Council gave a head-nod approval to this plan at a special City Council meeting on city finances Wednesday. The idea is to use these funds as a way to keep city services operating at current levels.

“I wouldn’t want to go more than two years with the landfill revenues,” city manager Mike Copp told council.

After two years, the Glenwood Meadows retail center should be open, giving the city a fresh new source of sales tax dollars. He noted that the landfill reserve fund will total $4 million by the end of 2004 if not tapped.

“Help could be on the way, but it’s never a done deal until they’re going vertical,” Copp said of the Meadows development.

The city’s plan is based on the assumption that the city will continue to see double-digit losses in sales tax revenue.

Copp’s estimate, one that he says is very conservative, surmises that the city’s sales tax revenue will be down 10 percent for the next two years. Much of those losses are attributed to customers who once shopped in Glenwood Springs but now buy at the Super Wal-Mart that opened in Rifle on Oct. 29.

Since Super Wal-Mart opened, Glenwood Springs has gone through its toughest three months for sales tax revenues. In November and December, revenues were down 11 percent compared to the year prior and January was down more than 7 percent.

If Copp’s 10 percent estimate holds true for the entire two years, the city’s general fund would be down $890,000 by the end of 2005.

That loss, coupled with salary increases for workers, could lead to a deficit of $1.7 million by the end of 2005.

But Copp said his estimates are a worst-case scenario.

“The idea is to show that even in the worst of times, we can still make this happen,” he said. “I think what we’re saying is that the sky’s not falling.”

One way the city is combating these losses is to start a policy of leaving some positions unfilled when a city employee leaves. Current examples of this policy are the unfilled positions of Downtown Development Authority director, a technician in the city finance office and the room coordinator at the Community Center.

Council also looked at other possible cuts, such as doing away with the spring cleanup service. But in the end, no cuts were made at Wednesday’s meeting.

The Glenwood Meadows factor

In a report on the budget challenges, Copp wrote, “The key to implementing this strategy is working with Glenwood Meadows to make sure that their project gets built.”

Glenwood Meadows is a large retail center that is expected to be open in 2005. It’s slated to include Target, Lowe’s and more than a dozen other stores and restaurants. The city could garner an estimated $2 million to $3 million per year in sales tax revenues from the center.

But even if Meadows is delayed or scrapped entirely, Copp insisted the city would be OK and that council would just have to adopt a different strategy.

“Know that for some reason if Meadows doesn’t go or starts in a later fashion, we’d have to start from square one,” he said.

Some services might need to be cut, Copp said, but the city could weather the storm.

At the same time, Copp vowed that the city won’t give in to unreasonable demands by Meadows developers.

“We won’t be held hostage,” Copp said.

Disagreements between the city and Meadows developers have already delayed the opening of Target by three months, but Copp said recent talks have been positive and he expects to know more about the proj-ect’s scheduling within the next couple of weeks.

“We need to bring that to a head,” he said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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