City of Aspen works on $117 million budget |

City of Aspen works on $117 million budget

Budget season is underway for the city of Aspen. The city has a proposed budget of $117 million for 2017, $45 million of which would fund capital improvement projects.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

$45 million in capital projects

The city of Aspen has $45 million in funds reserved for capital projects next year. Here’s a breakdown of those expenses.

• $17.5 million to help fund the construction of new city offices on Galena Plaza (the total cost for office spaces, including the City Hall renovation, is nearly $35 million, of which $3.8 million was budget in 2015, and $13.6 million is expected to be budgeted in 2018)

• $7.7 million for the new police station on East Main Street (the total cost is projected at $20.9 million, with $1.7 million coming from the 2015 budget and $11.5 million from the 2016 budget)

• $5 million for employee housing on East Main Street

• $3.2 million for restoring the old Powerhouse on Mill Street

• $1.8 million for improvements to the Castle Creek bridge to enhance the pedestrian and bicyclist path

• $1.6 million for improvements to Hallam Street

• $907,000 for the dispatch radio system

• $600,000 for a public-private partnership for the development of rental housing

• $600,000 for water utility on Roaring Fork Road

• $500,000 for city office at Rio Grande Place

• $5.8 million for all other projects

Source: Finance Department, city of Aspen

The proposed 2017 budget for the city of Aspen is $117 million. Now it’s up to the City Council to balance the budget, determine how to divvy up the funds that aren’t already accounted for, and decide on proposed fee increases.

The council has budget work sessions scheduled for today, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 before adopting the final budget Nov. 14. Increased fees are up for final approval Nov. 28.

Nearly $45 million in city funds are earmarked for capital projects next year (see chart).

The city is forecasting total revenue of $158.7 million in 2017 through funds generated from taxes and fees, as well as debt proceeds.

Tax proceeds

“For 2017, we’re expecting 3 percent growth” in sales tax revenue, the city’s assistant finance director, Pete Strecker, told the City Council earlier this month.

That amount would translate to $14.3 million going to city coffers from its 2.1 sales tax.

Strecker said he’s taking a conservative approach because of the financial developments in the United States and the rest of the world.

“Certainly in the U.S. we have a bit of political uncertainty, and Brazil, the EU and Russia obviously have had some ups and downs,” he said.

All of the city’s tax revenue is projected to yield nearly $49 million in 2017.

Tax revenue projections for 2017 include $8.56 million from the 2 percent county tax that is shared with the city, $5.5 million from the 1 percent real estate transfer tax that supports the employee-housing fund, $7.5 million in property taxes, $3.4 million from the 0.5 percent Wheeler Opera House transfer tax, $2.5 million from the 2 percent lodging tax, $1.5 million from the 0.3 sales tax that supports education and $1.2 million from the 2.1 percent use tax.

Fee revenue

The city forecast its fees to generate nearly $50 million next year, including $16.4 million from utilities, $7.9 million from Community Development and engineering, $7.5 million from affordable housing, $6 million from parking and $5.5 million drawn from parks, recreation and golf, among other fees.

A number of fee hikes are on tap, too. Among the proposed hikes are lodge guest permits climbing from $3 per visit to $10 and increasing construction permit fees for parking from $50 to $75, among other increases.

If you’re in the market to buy an employee-housing unit, look for increased fees, as well, pending the council’s approval. Housing bid fees are proposed to increase from $5 to $10; annual rental applications fees would climb from $40 to $50; biannual rental requalification would go from $25 to $35; and all lottery winners would pay a new fee of $100.

Nonprofit organizations, meanwhile, could get some relief in 2017. Under the proposal, building plan and permit fees for projects less than $5,000 would be waived for nonprofits, while 50 percent of the fees would be waived for projects ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. Nonprofits would be allowed as much as $15,000 in fee concessions for a calendar year.

In the hopper

A handful of potential budget items could come to the City Council later for supplemental requests.

Aspen Skiing Co. is seeking upward of $150,000 for the World Cup Finals in March.

The city is mulling the possibility of hiring a downtown manager to act as a liaison between retailers and the civic government.

The Police Department is considering a full-time human services officer to assist people who are mentally ill, have substance-abuse issue and are homeless.

The city also is eying as much as $952,000 to pay for design and inventory analysis of the downtown malls, which are scheduled to be modernized with new infrastructure and bricks from 2018 through 2020.

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