Basalt makes cuts, but avoids layoffs | AspenTimes.com

Basalt makes cuts, but avoids layoffs

BASALT – The town of Basalt reduced the hours of four workers to balance its 2011 budget but it avoided layoffs, Town Manager Bill Kane said Friday.

The chief building official’s position was whittled to part-time, as was a senior planning position, Kane said. Two community safety officer positions were reduced to 32 hours per week.

The reductions collectively will save the town $140,000 next year in salaries and benefits, Kane said. The reductions take effect Jan. 1.

Kane said it was tough to reduce the hours of colleagues, but the town has already cut virtually every area that it could as revenues plummeted in 2009 and 2010 as part of the recession and slow recovery. Salaries are one of the biggest expenses and the area that needed to be targeted, he said.

The recession and its aftermath have knocked out the development industry in the midvalley. That isn’t expected to change in 2011. The town didn’t need three full-time planners, Kane said, and the demand isn’t there right now for a full-time building official.

The preliminary budget unveiled by the town staff for the Town Council earlier this month had a shortfall of $120,000. The staff reductions will more than offset that shortfall.

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The four employees affected by the cuts indicated they want to remain in their positions, Kane said. The town employs a staff of 29, including the four workers who are part-time. That’s down from a high of 35 workers in the middle of the decade.

Town management and the council decided to freeze salaries for the third straight year in 2011. There will also be a suspension of a health and wellness benefit for the second straight year and a continued suspension of a “buy back” of sick days. No mandatory furlough days are planned, but that could change. Town employees had six furlough days in 2010.

In its preliminary planning, Basalt anticipates general fund budget expenditures of $5.13 million next year. That is down about 16 percent from an anticipated $5.97 million expenditure this year.

General fund revenues are anticipated to drop to $5.44 million in 2011 from $5.61 million this year. Sales taxes, which provide the majority of revenues to the town, are expected to stabilize – but at a rate significantly lower than pre-recession levels.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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