Aspen’s general fund to stay flat in 2010 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s general fund to stay flat in 2010

ASPEN – The city of Aspen is anticipating that general fund revenues will remain flat in 2010 compared to last year, and expenditures are projected to be 1 percent less.

The Aspen City Council on Monday reviewed the projected general fund figures as part of a series of meetings leading up to the adoption of the 2010 budget, which is expected next month.

Total revenues for 2010 are projected to be $21,424,439. In 2009, revenues were $21,491,439. That’s a difference of only $67,060.

City financiers estimate that in 2010, the starting general fund balance will be $6.2 million. In 2009, that figure was $8.4 million.

One of the major revenue drop-offs will be in the timeshare impact mitigation fee, which is a one-time collection when a fractional unit is sold. In 2006, the city collected $1.4 million from that fee. In 2010, it’s estimated that $75,000 will be collected.

City Finance Director Don Taylor attributed the decline to the fact that fractional units were completed in the last few years and most of them have been sold during that time.

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Mayor Mick Ireland said that revenue line item ought to be moved to another fund because it fluctuates and skews the numbers when there are windfall years. He suggested moving that revenue to the city’s reserve fund as on-going contribution.

In 2010, county sales tax is estimated to be $5.9 million, which is down 18 percent from 2008. Revenue in the recreation department is projected to be $2 million, a 4 percent decline from last year. However, council last week directed fees at the Aspen Recreation Center to be increased, representing an estimated $60,000 in new revenue.

Property taxes paid to the city are projected to be $3 million and other revenues are estimated at nearly $2.4 million, which is a 5 percent decline from 2009.

On the expenditure side, nearly all 20 departments in the general fund will experience spending decreases.

“On the whole, most departments’ operational expenses are down,” said Assistant Finance Director Ashley Ernemann, adding a few departments will see increases because particular services have gone up.

One dramatic decrease in spending will be in the community development department, where expenditures in services are projected to be down 82 percent.

That’s because council-directed pet projects like studying what can be done about downtown alleys or extended surveys related to the Aspen Area Community Plan will no longer occur in a down economy.

“We won’t be doing that anymore,” said Community Development Director Chris Bendon.

City contributions and grants are budgeted to be pared down 24 percent to nearly $1.2 million.

While nonprofits and other organizations may see less money next year, the council preliminarily agreed to set aside $50,000 in a contingency fund for health and human services, upon the suggestion of Ireland.

“We are going to see an extraordinary need in this community that we haven’t seen before,” he said of local workers being laid off or feeling financial pressures as a result of the failing economy.

Ireland also reiterated a comment he made last week that city department heads survey their employees on what type of pay reduction options they could swallow if the economy continues to worsen.

“We need systematic input from employees on what they want to do on a temporary basis if it gets worse,” he said.

Councilman Dwayne Romero said he would like government financiers to take a more conservative approach to the general fund and find more money to build into the city’s reserves.

That means roughly $218,000 in expenditures must be cut. The increased fees at the ARC could assist in closing that gap, council members noted.

csack@aspentimes.com

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