City of Aspen unveils 2012 budget proposal |

City of Aspen unveils 2012 budget proposal

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Discussions over the 2012 municipal budget – which features a projected 5.6 percent increase in operating costs – begin Monday when the Aspen City Council gathers for a rare 1 p.m. meeting.

The meeting is the first of several designed to tackle the budget. According to Aspen finance director Don Taylor’s proposal, the city’s net appropriations – including operating, capital outlay and debt service costs – are expected to total $70.1 million, a 5.8 percent increase over 2011’s $66.2 million.

Operating costs represent the basic departmental tab for conducting city business. In that category, the city wants to spend $50.1 million, 5.6 percent (or $2.6 million) more than the $47.5 million used to run the city last year.

“The kind of base budget that everybody started with [in each department] was a 2.6 percent increase, and then there were a couple of positions that were added,” Taylor said Friday.

The budget proposes an increase of four employees, three of whom would hold full-time jobs. The workforce increase would be made up of administrative assistants in the Human Resources and Community Development departments, a project manager for the Engineering Department and an administrative sergeant in the Police Department.

The budget plan also assumes that the council will want to implement a 4 percent merit-pay increase for 2012. In August, the council approved a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all municipal employees. It would be up to the discretion of department heads to decide who would get the merit-based raises.

“Maintaining a competitive pay plan is important for the city to continue to attract and retain professional, competent employees,” says a memorandum from Taylor and City Manager Steve Barwick to council members. “The city has not given any merit-based increases in two years.” The merit raises, which have yet to gain the council’s blessing, would start on the anniversary of an employee’s hiring date.

The city also is planning to increase its health insurance contributions to workers’ plans by 8 percent, which isn’t enough to cover estimated cost increases. “Employee contributions to their health plan are [also] estimated to increase 8 percent to 12 percent,” the memo states.

Taylor’s department is forecasting a significant increase in overall revenue to the city of Aspen next year: $93.5 million, up 7.5 percent compared with this year’s $86.9 million. The revenue is derived from a variety of sources, including sales and property taxes, parking fines and other fees.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the economy and the slow recovery from the 2008-09 recession, Taylor is predicting a modest 4 percent increase in sales tax revenue next year, “and a 4 percent increase a year each year after that.” He also writes that sales taxes “will not return to 2008 levels until well into the future.”

Sales tax revenue to date this year is running 5 percent ahead of 2010. The city saw significant sales tax growth during the bustling 2004-07 period.

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