Carbondale approves budget increases | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale approves budget increases

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Meadowood Drive is scheduled for repaving as part of Carbondale's 2019 budget, which was approved by town trustees Tuesday night.

Buoyed by sales tax revenue in 2018, the Carbondale Board of Trustees approved modest budget increases Tuesday and maintained the enviable 75 percent reserves.

The town is expected to finish the year with revenue 12.8 percent higher than the budget. At the final tally, sales tax revenue in 2018 is expected to be 7 percent higher than budgeted. That conservative estimation is intentional, Town Manager Jay Harrington said at the public budget meeting.

The 2019 budget is $341,000 away from being a balanced budget, in terms of projected revenue to expenditures, meaning the town will need to dip into some reserves. The budget includes a $200,000 increase in appropriations for the general fund, totaling $7.18 million.

But the transfer works because, with higher sales tax numbers coming in this year, the town can still keep its 75 percent reserves.

"Many communities would love to have that 75 percent target, even our neighboring communities," Harrington said. "We definitely keep it in place so that if we were in a downturn we could slow the constriction and avoid getting into a layoff mode or something along those lines. We have that cushion."

The unbalanced budget has worked in the past because revenue has exceeded expectations. But, it isn't ideal for funding capital projects on a year-to-year basis through general fund expenditures, several of the trustees noted.

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Capital projects funded for next year include basic street resurfacing, sidewalk improvements, fleet upgrades, parking improvements for the popular Red Hill Recreation Area and paving of Meadowood Drive.

The town also raised its legal budget by $30,000, mainly to accommodate two ongoing matters of litigation.

BOARD APPROVES COVENTURE grant

In a split vote, the board approved a $20,000 payment for CoVenture, the rebranded and refocused nonprofit formerly known as GlenX, to provide entrepreneurial and business training for the community.

CoVenture, under the leadership of Mike Lowe, requested $25,000 from Carbondale in November, but was sent back to the drawing board by several trustees who wanted more specifics and better proof of the concept.

Some noted that other nonprofits struggle to gain a 10th of CoVenture's request each year. For comparison, the town's funding for community health and human service organizations in 2019 totaled $25,440 granted to 16 organizations, like Lift-Up, Ascendigo, the Buddy Program and Senior Matters.

CoVenture's expansion, in part, takes the form of coworking space in the 201 Main Street building downtown, but that is only part of Lowe's goals for the organization. The town's contribution will go exclusively toward entrepreneurship education and programming for small business incubators.

"As we know, we've got a downturn coming," Mayor Dan Richardson said. CoVenture has the potential to improve economic diversity for the town, and could provide opportunities for unemployed people in a recession, he said.

CoVenture is applying for an Economic Development Council grant of $50,000 each year for five years, but needs matching funds, among other things, from local governments. CoVenture has a letter of intent from the Garfield County commissioners to provide a $25,000 grant.

All of the trustees were pleased with the updated proposal, but three of seven were not comfortable with the full $25,000 and preferred half that amount or less. The budget included a line item of $25,000 for economic development.

In the spirit of compromise, the board approved $20,000, along with a stipulation that one trustee serve on CoVenture's board of directors, and that the trustees would come up with quantifiable metrics for the nonprofit organization.

tphippen@postindependent.com

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