New Castle maintains ‘austere’ budget for 2012 |

New Castle maintains ‘austere’ budget for 2012

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colorado – Citing a continuing need for austerity, the town has crafted a proposed operating budget for 2012 that is more than 6 percent smaller than the 2011 budget.

No new capital projects are recommended in the preliminary budget submitted by town administrator Andy Barton, and a proposed 2 percent pay raise for town employees, estimated to cost $30,000, has been put on hold for now.

Mayor Frank Breslin said on Thursday that he sees cause for hope.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” Breslin told the Post Independent, explaining that he has heard the region is close to reaching a point where home construction will begin to rebound.

Until then, he noted, the town will keep its belt tightened.

At present, the proposed budget calls for expenditures of $2.39 million in 2012, compared to budgeted spending of $2.55 million in 2011.

In 2009, before the current recession took hold, the town’s general fund budget came to $6.5 million, which included three capital projects: a park, wastewater treatment facility and public works facility.

Sales tax revenues for the coming year are expected to be up 7 percent from last year, reaching just over $1 million in 2012, according to projections.

But general property tax revenues are expected to drop next year by an estimated $173,700, to $370,500, compared to the estimated $544,200 in property tax proceeds in 2011.

The revenues are payments by energy companies operating in Colorado, disbursed by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) to local governments experiencing impacts from energy development.

According to Barton, the town expects to receive at least $420,000 from DOLA in 2012, the same as in 2011, but well above the $236,000 received in 2010.

Some of the 2011 DOLA distribution, Barton has recommended, could be used to eliminated an anticipated $206,000 shortfall in the general fund for 2011.

The rest, he has proposed, could be used to fund capital improvements projects and to bolster the town’s low level of cash reserves.

Reserves reached a low of $27,000 at the end of 2009, Barton reported in a memo to the town council. He expressed the hope of getting reserves up to $550,000 through infusions of DOLA payments this year and next.

Barton noted that the idea of a pay raise may come up again, but he suggested that the council make any raise “contingent upon either a significant increase in 2012 sales tax revenues, or sufficient distribution from the 2012 mineral lease/severance tax revenues.”

Barton reported to the council that there are no proposed changes in staffing levels, which have been cut by 30 percent since 2009, the first full year of the recession.

He noted that the current proposed budget is “less than half the General Fund budget for that year, but we are still providing nearly all of the services we did in better times. Any additional staffing cuts at this point would cripple our ability to provide the services our residents expect.”

In the preliminary budget, the town expects to spend approximately $385,000 on the administration department, essentially the same as the department spent in 2011.

The largest single outlay in the budget would be the estimated $755,000 in spending for the police and public safety department, which represents about a 3 percent decrease from the amount budgeted for 2011.

Similarly, the $451,700 proposed for street maintenance in 2012 represents a decrease of roughly 4 percent over the $469,800 budgeted for the department in 2011.

Other departments have faced similar small cuts in the proposed 2012 budget, except for the building and planning department.

That department will see its expenditures cut to approximately $193,000, down significantly from the $269,000 initially budgeted for 2011.

The reason, Barton said, is because building activity in town has dropped off drastically, reducing income from fees as well as the need for planning work by a planning consultant who has been doing all of the town’s planning work.

This year the town hired Tim Cain as full-time planner, who also handles code enforcement and emergency services. Barton said that approach is considerably less expensive than paying a planning consultant.

The town council will hold a budget work session on Oct. 25, and the formal public hearing on adoption of the budget is scheduled for Dec. 6.

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