Aspen looks to hire new finance director | AspenTimes.com

Aspen looks to hire new finance director

The city of Aspen has made an offer to an internal candidate to become its new finance director.

Pete Strecker, who had been assistant finance director since 2012 and interim finance director since the beginning of October, has been offered the position with an annual salary of $124,322.

Aspen City Council has to sign off on City Manager Steve Barwick's recommendation to have Strecker be the department head. He would oversee a 14-person office and a proposed $120 million budget.

Council is expected to review Barwick's recommendation Monday.

Don Taylor, who had been finance director since 2008, announced his retirement in August. His last day was Oct. 5.

Assistant City Manager Sara Ott said Strecker is the ideal candidate because he has 14 years of public service, including working as an economist for the state of Colorado.

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"He has an intimate understanding of the macro issues in the state and nation" and how they reflect resort communities like Aspen, Ott said.

Strecker also has experience working in the lodging sector as assistant finance director for Destination Hotel and Resorts.

Ott said there was not a national search for candidates.

"We don't want to lose the talent" of Strecker, she said.

He was interviewed by a panel of seven city department heads, and 25 government employees provided feedback about Strecker, along with a meet-and-greet interview with employees in the finance department.

Strecker is spending his transition days preparing and presenting the 2019 budget to council.

There have been three work sessions that have covered the operating budgets of several departments, as well as the general fund and grants. Still to be reviewed are the city's utility departments and the local housing authority.

Next year's overall budget is almost $121 million. Revenue is projected to be $161 million, of which the biggest generator are taxes. Taxes on lodging, retail sales and real estate account for almost $55 million.

The 2019 operating budget is $76.4 million, which reflects a 9.7 percent increase over 2018, according to Strecker.

The increase is related to nearly $5.2 million in "supplemental" requests, which add to existing service levels.

A large portion of that expenditure is the city's Shift mobility lab experiment, which seeks alternative methods of transportation with the goal of reducing 600 to 800 cars coming into town each day.

Also part of the supplemental requests is adding just over 11 positions to city government.

If approved, the 2019 budget shows more employees working for the government than it has had in over 10 years, exceeding 320 people. During the recession and ensuing years, that number shrunk to as few as 280 employees.

"We have been cautiously and slowly adding employees," since the peak of 2009 with just under 320 positions, he said.

Strecker is projecting a 3.5 percent growth in the city's sales tax revenue and 4 percent on the lodging tax.

"The accommodations sector of Aspen's economy has remained on an upward trend, but not the same rapid progression as experienced during the years following the recessionary period," Strecker wrote in his budget presentation to council. "With some newly renovated hotel spaces online, there may be some rationale for higher expectations, but current planning remains conservative."

And concerning the city sales tax revenue growth, Strecker wrote, "Given the duration of the current economic expansion period and historic cycles of boom and bust activity, this muted growth expectation is anticipated to hedge against the possibility of a slowdown in the near term."

Council will begin adoption of the budget in November, leading into December.

csackariason@aspentimes.com

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