Basalt budget soars as town aims to tackle capital projects
Council approves $12.34 million budget for 2022 along with $9.35 million capital construction fund
The Basalt Town Council approved a $12.34 million general fund budget for 2022 on Tuesday and established a separate $9.35 million capital construction fund.
The funds could have been combined into a $21.69 million general fund budget but town staff recommended creating a separate fund for bond proceeds that were overwhelmingly approved by town voters in November. The separate construction fund will create more transparency on how those funds are being used, town finance director Christy Chicoine told the council. Voters approved issuing bonds to raise funds for affordable housing, “green” initiatives and improvements to the Midland Avenue streetscape.
This year’s budget is substantially larger than recent years. The general fund actual expenditures were $7.25 million in 2019; $6.82 million in 2020; and it is projected to be $10.29 million this year.
The general fund expenditure of $12.34 million represents about a 20% increase, and that’s with the separate creation of the construction fund.
“The major factor for this increase is a $1.8 million budgeted land purchase for a police facility,” Chicoine told The Aspen Times via email prior to Tuesday’s meeting. If a suitable site for a new police headquarters can be found, the town would purchase it by using a financing tool called Certificates of Participation. The town would lease the property and make payments to gain ownership.
In addition to the cop shop land purchase, the town aims to add a plans examiner for the building department, a part-time planner and fill vacancies in the police department, Chicoine said. The police department budget includes “increases in salaries and benefits for staff, plus the addition of mobile computers and increasing communication costs for IT and dispatch,” Chicoine wrote.
All town employees will receive a 5% cost of living adjustment in 2022 but no merit raises will be awarded.
The town also budgeted $195,000 for one of the initiatives highest on its wish list. It is hoping to work with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to start “downtowner” bus service between downtown Basalt and Willits Town Center. RFTA’s board of directors is likely to take up the matter at a later meeting.
Another wish-list project is $200,000 set aside for finding and installing public art. The Basalt River Park has a prominent spot reserved for public art, near the new space being constructed by Free Range Kitchen. Additional public art will be displayed in Willits Town Center.
Chicoine said the town is certain to have more funds carried over from 2021 to 2022 than is currently reflected in the budget. Sales tax revenues are soaring well ahead of projections in 2021 (see related story) and a building boom has generated more building fees than anticipated heading into 2021. Revenues this year will likely come in between $350,000 and $600,000 more than expected, according to Chicoine.
“We’re looking a little more favorable than what I reflect (in the budget),” she told the council.
The budget was approved unanimously, but Councilman Bill Infante objected to a spending plan for future years that was part of the 2022 budget. The town plans on spending $950,000 for a public works facility at a new site near Willits that it acquired this year. Infante objected to plans to spend an additional $3.9 million on the facility in future years.
“I’m looking at a budget that is exploding” far beyond the level he is comfortable with, Infante said at Tuesday night’s meeting. He proposed that the future spending on the public works facility be eliminated from the budget. Other council members objected because it is part of the town’s facility needs study.
“The biggest thing is it’s not part of the budget we’re approving now,” Councilman Glenn Drummond said.
But Infante said wish lists for future year’s spending have a way of becoming institutionalized.
On the advice of the town attorney, Infante voted to approve the budget but abstained from approving the line item that included future spending for the public works facility.
The $12.34 million general fund budget includes $7.53 million for operating expenses, $4.2 million for capital outlays and $614,500 for debt service.
The $9,347,000 capital construction fund is separate.
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