ASPEN - A 2013 Pitkin County budget that includes $9.7 million in capital projects was presented Tuesday to county commissioners.
The budget overview kicked off roughly two months of discussions that will culminate with the scheduled adoption of the spending plan on Dec. 19.
The proposed 2013 budget continues this year's aggressive approach to funding capital maintenance of the county's roads, bridges and facilities after several years of deferring such expenditures, according to County Manager Jon Peacock. In 2012, the county plugged $5.3 million into road projects, $2.1 million into building maintenance and $1.2 million into information technology investments, he noted in a memo to commissioners.
The proposed 2013 general-fund budget also reflects the hiring of a full-time employee to handle certain facilities-maintenance projects in-house and a 3 percent increase in the overall salary package for the county's work force, which numbers the equivalent of about 273 full-time employees.
This year, county employees received a 1.5 percent across-the-board bonus after two years of frozen wages. The bonus did not constitute a salary increase. Next year's proposed 3 percent increase in what the county spends on wages does not mean a 3 percent pay hike for everyone, Peacock said. Rather, it will allow pay increases based on merit and possible adjustment to the pay scale for some employees.
Tuesday's discussion focused on the county's general fund. The roughly $30.6 million in projected expenses include basic county operations, plus road and bridge maintenance and capital projects. Other operations that are self-sufficient, including the library, airport, open space and landfill, for example, have their own separate budgets and are not reflected in the general fund.
The county is projecting a 15 percent increase in overall general-fund revenues next year and a 20 percent increase in appropriations over 2012, according to Peacock. Most of the latter increase (91 percent) comes in capital improvements and maintenance projects, including $1.4 million for facilities.
A proposed $6.9 million budget for roads and bridges next year will include $2.6 million for road and drainage improvements at the Aspen Business Center and $3 million for a Highway 82 pedestrian underpass connecting the business center and the airport, though all but $500,000 of that project is expected to ultimately come from other funding sources, including the Colorado Department of Transportation. Replacement of the upper bridge on Castle Creek Road is also slated for next year.
While one new position is proposed within the general fund (the tradesperson in facilities maintenance), two vacant positions are proposed for elimination. Three other proposed positions that aren't currently funded within the general-fund budget remain under consideration and will receive more discussion - a full-time front-desk staffer/building technician and a roughly half-time plans examiner/inspector in Community Development, plus a detentions deputy in the county jail.
The additional positions in Community Development might be necessary if increased activity in building and development continues, Peacock said.
In Open Space and Trails, which has a separate budget, a new administrative assistant, land/trail manager and public-relations consultant are proposed.
The general-fund budget reflects a 3 percent increase in Community Development fees over 2012, a 3.5 percent increase in sales tax revenue and a 2.7 percent hike in property tax revenues. The county realized a $1.28 million surplus in unspent funds at the end of 2011, allowing it to plug another $1 million into its five-year capital plan.
Despite the ongoing spending of significant sums on capital projects, the county continues to maintain a healthy operating-fund balance, Peacock said.