Carbondale wrestles with discretionary spending | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale wrestles with discretionary spending

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Some $4.9 million in proposed general fund spending for basic needs next year will keep the town of Carbondale operating at about the same level as this year, according to town finance officials.

That amount of spending is based on town sales taxes and other revenues remaining flat through next year, Town Manager Tom Baker said.

Spending for basic operations would be distributed at between 60 and 63 percent for personnel costs, 32 to 34 percent for operation and maintenance needs, and 4 to 6 percent for a variety of capital projects, Baker and Finance Director Nancy Barnett explained in a recent budget memo to the Carbondale Board of Trustees.

“These are within the parameters established for distribution of expenditures to create a sustainable budget,” they wrote.

Trustees will hold a formal public hearing on a proposed $5.4 million 2011 general fund budget at their Dec. 14 meeting. Separate water, wastewater, recreation and other smaller fund budgets will also be considered for formal adoption at that time.

Public comments on the budget can be taken at any time before then, however.

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With the basic expenses pretty much set, a Nov. 30 budget work session was mostly focused on about $700,000 in discretionary spending “opportunities,” including funding requests from a variety of community organizations and support for special events out of the town’s recreation funds.

With only about $449,000 in available general fund dollars and a limited amount of recreation funds to dole out, however, town trustees were diligent to question the merits of each and every request.

“You have to weigh the public money you give away with the public good that you get back,” Trustee John Foulkrod said during discussion of a funding request to support the 5Points Film Festival.

In that case, the town has been asked for about $13,000 in support, between sponsorships, fee waivers for use of the recreation center and marketing support for the three-day event.

The adventure film festival has grown substantially over the past few years, and has become a signature event for the town, Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel said.

But, as with the town’s other signature event, Mountain Fair, which is requesting $15,000 worth of police overtime support, trustees questioned just how much public support is necessary, especially as such events mature.

“I’m personally against it,” Mayor Stacey Patch Bernot said of the Mountain Fair request. “But we need to have that discussion with [Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities] to talk about how they’re going to cover it.”

Trustees will invite organizers of both events to meet soon after the first of the year to discuss their funding requests, as well as a separate request from CCAH for $8,000 to support the Performances in the Park concert series.

Another item set aside for a follow-up discussion was a $35,000 request from Access Roaring Fork for continued support of after-school programs for middle school-aged students.

The town has also designated $53,300 for a variety of community grant requests for nonprofit service organizations, for which it has received $165,525 in requests. Those will also be considered after the first of the year.

While a $46,000 patrol car for the police department was nixed from the budget, several funding items were given preliminary approval for funding in 2011, including $175,000 for a new street sweeper, $40,000 for continued development of the town’s energy plan, $15,000 for design work on new trail connections around town, and $25,000 to support the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

Some trustees wanted to cut back on support of the chamber, however.

“I think we need better accounting of where that money goes,” Trustee Elizabeth Murphy said. “I’d like to see us hold the line, and work with them to be more effective.”

jstroud@postindependent.com