Basalt bumps budget up 10 percent |

Basalt bumps budget up 10 percent

The Basalt town government has approved a 2007 budget that is about $484,000, or 9.5 percent, larger than last year.The town council approved a general fund budget of $5.49 million, which features spending $1.1 million on a variety of capital improvements. Some of the big-ticket expenses include $175,000 for a new stoplight on Highway 82 to serve the Midvalley Medical Center and surrounding neighborhoods; roughly $100,000 for traffic and pedestrian planning on Willits Lane and elsewhere in booming West Basalt; and $90,000 on planning the future of Two Rivers Road. The town is also spending $143,000 on replacing fleet vehicles.The cost of dealing with growth has also had an impact on the town’s budget. It anticipates spending $268,000 on its land-use master plan update and revisions to its zoning and subdivision code. Funds budgeted but not spent from last year will pay for part of those updates. Town Hall will also get a $10,000 remodel to accommodate the planning office.Planning director Susan Philp told members of the Town Council and the town planning commission last week that the workload from reviewing applications and fielding inquires from prospective developers and property buyers was making it difficult to devote staff time to the master plan update.”Everybody that owns a speck of dirt in this valley is out speculating,” Town Manager Bill Efting added.Council members made it clear they want the master plan update to receive priority. The planning office will also get some relief with the hiring of a fourth employee in the spring.Efting said the only other addition to the staff will be increasing a part-time position in the parks department to full time. The two adjustments will boost the staff to 33 full-time-equivalent positions.Basalt anticipates collecting revenues of $5.2 million, or about $600,000 more than last year. Booming retail sales are expected to boost tax collections by more than $400,000. Sales tax revenues have been growing at a double-digit rate over last year. Sales taxes account for 54 percent of general fund revenues, while property taxes account for only 9 percent, according to town finance director Judith Tippetts.The 2007 budget anticipates dipping into cash reserves for $283,758. That still leaves $3.33 million in the town’s piggy bank, according to the budget.Efting and Tippetts noted that the reserves might not be touched. The town government’s departments are on track to spend about $500,000 less than budgeted this year.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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