Basalt pares spending to balance budget, restore 33% reserve | AspenTimes.com

Basalt pares spending to balance budget, restore 33% reserve

"No pain, no gain" could be the motto for Basalt town government's budget process for 2017.

The Town Council made what members called tough decisions during work sessions this fall so they could restore a cash reserve to the level they wanted. The "pain" was cuts they had to make, such as grants that parents could apply for to pay for child care. The "gain" was restoring the cash reserve to an amount equal to four months of operations.

The final general fund budget of $13.75 million was approved with little discussion Tuesday night. The budget's main components were $6.76 million for operations, $3.5 million for personnel, $3 million for debt service and $487,000 for capital projects, according to an ordinance passed unanimously by the board.

Assistant Town Manager and Finance Director Judi Tippetts credited the department heads for finding ways to pare down the budget.

The budget was $10.8 million for 2016. The $13.75 million budget for 2017 is deceptive because the town had to list a $3 million line of credit for affordable housing as an expenditure to meet requirements of Colorado's TABOR Amendment, Tippetts said. That line of credit isn't being used. Therefore, expenditures are on par with last year, she said.

The town government made $1.33 million in cuts and adjustments to revenue to balance the budget and restore a 33 percent reserve for its operations. Every department's budget remained flat from last year or up just slightly.

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The council and former Town Manager Mike Scanlon carried out a strategy of reducing the reserve to pursue some major projects. The plan was to rebuild the reserves over time.

The council decided it wanted to restore the reserve in one step this year.

Council members said multi-year commitments to some major projects provide great benefits for the town but also require austerity with the budget. Projects include the pedestrian underpass of Highway 82, which Basalt is funding with numerous partners, as well as affordable-housing projects.

scondon@aspentimes.com