Basalt boosts spending by 10 percent |

Basalt boosts spending by 10 percent

The town of Basalt plans to spend about 10 percent more in 2001 than it did last year, even if it requires the government to dip into reserves for as much as $196,000.

The Town Council approved a budget of $3,805,844 for the new year – an increase of $351,782 over estimated expenditures in 2000.

The town estimates it will receive about $3.6 million in revenues. Therefore, it must tap into its reserve to cover all projected expenses.

Town Manager Tom Baker said he doubts the government will need as much as planned from reserves because revenues are often greater than anticipated.

“We’ve been extremely conservative on revenue projections in the past,” he said.

While that is a safe policy to employ, it can also distort budgets, according to Baker.

For example, the Town Council decided last year it had to undertake some deferred maintenance. That resulted in an estimated $615,000 withdrawal from reserves. But revenues came in much stronger than expected and the town needed only $19,500 from reserves last year, Baker noted.

He is banking on the government taking less from reserves again in 2001.

The town has certified a mill levy of 3.902 on all taxable property in Basalt. The property tax is expected to raise $292,725.

In contrast, a general sales tax is expected to raise $1,912,234. Another $27,488 is expected to be raised by a special tax on cigarette sales.

Spending in 2001 will include $3.41 million in day-to-day operating expenses and $392,303 in capital improvement projects.

Baker said the town’s emphasis will be on improving existing infrastructure and equipment as well as improving existing programs and facilities before developing new programs and projects.

The town has also adopted a philosophical direction of focusing on improvements to what officials label “social capital” rather than promoting further development.

While social capital sounds rather New Age, it’s really just the projects and programs that enrich the quality of life in Basalt and improve the health of community-oriented groups and facilities.

In more concrete terms, the town’s biggest increases in spending in 2001 will come in the discretionary funds the Town Council has available to contribute to causes and groups, the recreation department, the police department, the planning department and the public works department.

The Town Council receives requests throughout the year for funds from groups like the Boy Scouts or the Downtown Beautification Committee. Although members usually want to help, they are often hamstrung because they haven’t set aside enough money in their discretionary fund.

This year the board boosted that kitty from about $66,000 to nearly $141,000.

The board has also earmarked an additional $43,000 for the planning department, mostly for professional services for special land-use planning projects.

The recreation budget will increase by $40,000, in large part by adding seasonal people to oversee the popular programs. The increase also includes $14,000 for research and development for future needs.

The public works budget will increase by about $150,000. The biggest hit is the addition of a new senior staff-level position to advise the board of projects and to oversee their development.

The police department’s budget will increase by $43,000, primarily through salaries. The department’s budget has increased 43 percent in two years, reflecting increases in staffing to match growing demands, said Baker. He expects that budget to level off.

Copies of the budget are available at Town Hall.

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