Basalt cuts four jobs amid budget crunch
The Basalt town government eliminated four positions yesterday as part of budget cuts for 2003.
Two full-time positions were consolidated into other positions, and another was eliminated, according to Town Manager Tom Baker. A part-time position was also absorbed by other employees. Basalt had 31 employees before the cuts were made.
The position of public works director was eliminated, and the duties were assigned to the community services manager. Gerry Pace held the public works position since 1986.
The recreation director’s position was also cut, and some of the duties will be absorbed by the recreation coordinator position. Town officials anticipate that many of former recreation director Nick Alcorta’s duties will be taken over by the new Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District. Alcorta worked for the town since 1997.
An investigator position in the police department was eliminated, and investigator Steve Wilson was reassigned as a patrol officer. There was an opening in the patrol staff due to a resignation.
The part-time municipal court clerk job was also eliminated.
The duties of court clerk Paulette Durica will be performed by the town clerk. Durica joined the town in 1996.
Pace, Alcorta and Durica were released immediately. Their severance deals included two weeks of pay for each year or partial year they worked.
Baker said he regretted having to make the cuts but felt they were necessary.
“We’re making choices here where there are no good answers,” he said. They will be the only layoffs for 2003, Baker said.
Budget drops 8.5 percent
The restructuring was proposed by the senior management and blessed by the Town Council this week. The moves are expected to save an estimated $175,000 next year, according to the proposed budget.
Overall, the town government is slashing expenses by 8.5 percent in 2003. The goal, according to Baker, is to create a budget “that is balanced and won’t fritter away our hard-earned reserve fund.”
A hiring freeze will remain in place for the town. If necessary, the government will pursue savings through voluntary furloughs, reduced work hours and possibly even layoffs, according to Baker’s memo to the Town Council.
However, town employees can also look forward to raises.
Department heads haven’t received a raise since January 2001. Other workers have been frozen at August 2001 pay levels.
The town had a salary survey performed to compare Basalt with other governments in the region. Baker wants to adjust all salaries with a 3 percent cost-of-living increase in 2003 and, additionally, bring salaries up to the midpoint of the survey results over the next two years.
In his memo to the council, Baker wrote that revenue projections for the town are bleaker than anticipated.
“Over the past 12 months, our belief about the timing of an economic recovery has evolved: Six months ago staff believed that the economy could recover in 2003, but it would be a long, slow recovery,” Baker wrote. “Now staff believes that this recession or downturn could dominate a significant portion of this decade.”
In response, Basalt needs to reduce expenditures and not just defer spending, he said. The staff is now projecting that it could be 2006 before the town government’s revenues match the amount collected in 2001.
Baker and five other senior staff members proposed a budget that they said will balance the necessary cuts with “reinvesting appropriately in the town’s physical and human resources.”
The proposed budget spending is $3,503,000. The estimated budget for 2002 is $3,825,000.
The town government anticipates dipping into reserves for about $577,000 before this year is through. Next year, it hopes to use only $145,000 from reserves, according to a proposal given to the Town Council.
The meals stay
Other highlights of the budget proposed by Baker include:
Town Council members and volunteers on town committees will continue to be fed. The council and planning commission receive dinners on nights they conduct business, usually twice per month per board. In addition, citizen committees that meet over lunch or at dinner time will continue to receive meals paid for by the town.
Baker said it is the least the town can do for citizens willing to help out on major town issues.
“It’s cheaper than hiring consultants,” said Mayor Rick Stevens.
Finance director Renee Gustine estimated the town spends less than $100 per month on lunches and dinners.
The government will increase revenues by charging higher fees, most notably by the planning department. The town staff will track hours spent on reviewing development proposals and bill developers for some of that time.
“What’s the gag level on what you can bill?” asked Baker.
That’s the dilemma, he said. The council directed him to start tracking hours and billing accordingly and let them worry about the “fallout” from developers.
The town budgeted $90,000 as a “one-time expenditure” to deal with existing litigation. Although the specific case wasn’t discussed, the town is currently facing a lawsuit from developers Michael Lipkin, Clay Crossland and Paul Adams over restrictions on the Midland Addition proposal. The project site is located between the Roaring Fork River and the Basalt post office.
The proposed budget is scheduled to be discussed and approved at a public hearing during the Town Council’s Nov. 26 meeting.
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