Basalt’s budget bounces back | AspenTimes.com
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Basalt’s budget bounces back

Two years after laying off four staffers and implementing a hiring freeze, Basalt town officials believe their budget has stabilized well enough to consider adding staff.The Town Council will decide later this month when it finalizes the 2005 budget whether to hire a land-use planner and a community safety officer. The staff recommended both additions. If approved, it would be the third planner for the town and second community safety officer.Town Manager Bill Efting said a planner is needed because of the activity anticipated in 2005. The town is updating its master plan – a blueprint for the type of development the town wants and the locations. In addition, the town wants to finish a specialized master plan on the Roaring Fork River corridor. That plan will outline projects needed to reduce the flooding potential and define what properties can be developed and what should be left as open space.In addition to those planning efforts, the town anticipates reviewing an application from the Roaring Fork Club to expand its golf course by nine holes and build 24 additional luxury cabins.The other proposed staff addition is a community safety officer to help with animal control, parking control, crosswalk duty at the schools and code enforcement.Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda said adding a community safety officer would allow seven-day-per-week coverage. Weekends aren’t covered now with just one community safety officer, and that’s when many code enforcement issues are reported, he said.The town government was forced to lay off its public works director, recreation department manager, a police department investigator and a part-time court clerk in November 2002. Revenues from sale taxes plummeted after the economy turned sour following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.Basalt, and most other governments in the valley, tightened their budgets for 2003. The hiring freeze stayed in place through 2004.The town’s economy is finally bouncing back this year. Revenues from the town’s 2 percent sales tax are up 12.3 percent over the prior year.”Year to date the revenues are maintaining an upward growth pattern and we expect to end the year approximately 6 to 7 percent above 2003,” said a recent memo from Basalt Finance Director Renae Gustine to the council.In 2005, the town staff expects revenues to increase between 2 and 4 percent due to economic growth. That would generate an extra $42,000.”We’re looking for a slight increase but I’m conservative by nature,” Efting said.The town will likely have to dip into its healthy reserve fund to balance the 2005 budget. Efting said his golden rule is to maintain the reserve at or above the level equal to five months of operating funds.The council is scheduled to finalize its budget at its Nov. 24 meeting.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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