Silt forced to cut town staff | AspenTimes.com

Silt forced to cut town staff

Heidi Rice
Glenwood Springs corrspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SILT, Colo. ” The struggling economy has forced the town of Silt to cut its staff, while the city of Rifle has dealt with the problem by budgeting very conservatively in 2009.

A Silt town planner was laid off two weeks ago, and a code enforcement officer position in the police department is being eliminated, according to Town Administrator Betsy Suerth. Also, two people are leaving the public works department, and those positions will not be filled.

“We’ve had a revenue shortfall in the building department,” Suerth said. “We’re about two-thirds down in building permits from 2007.”

The town doesn’t anticipate a big drop in sales tax revenues from 2008, but expects it to be flat in 2009. Typically, the town increases its budget each year in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 3.5 percent.

“The board deliberated over this for months, and it was a hard decision,” Suerth said. “They didn’t want to adopt a hiring and firing freeze, and they wanted to keep a competitive salary. But when you look at all the (general fund) numbers, revenues are down in certain areas.”

To compensate, the town has cut expenditures and is dipping into some reserve funds in 2009, Suerth said.

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“Our operational expenses are increasing, and we’ve had to reduce our expenditures somewhere,” Suerth said. “Payroll was the obvious place to look for savings. We’re being preventative and cautiously optimistic.”

The city of Rifle is also taking a conservative approach to its budget, but does not anticipate any employee layoffs in the near future.

“We’ve actually added one officer to the police department ” an officer who left to serve in Iraq and has now come back,” said Mayor Keith Lambert. “We’re not laying anybody off, but we’re not moving forward as aggressively as we were, either.”

Lambert acknowledged that because of Rifle’s strong economy, the city has “been in a bubble,” but also said the city is not isolated from the impacts of the national economy.

Rifle City Manager John Hier said the city has finalized the budget for 2009 and, while there are no proposed layoffs, the city is taking a conservative approach with its expenditures.

“We always monitor the sales tax on a monthly basis and then make adjustments,” Hier said. “We think we’re taking the appropriate steps with our expenditures, and if there’s a downturn in the economy, we’re prepared.”

But so far, the city is on track with its budget for the remainder of 2008, Hier said.

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