Town of Basalt employees will be eligible for raise of up to 4 percent

A pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 was constructed at Basalt Avenue during the winter of 2016-17. Basalt plans to pay off a loan one year sooner to save an estimated $40,000 in interests costs.
Aspen Times file photo

Most employees for Basalt town government will be eligible for a raise of as much as 4 percent in 2019, according to a draft budget.

The upper-level staff proposed a budget with a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for all employees other than department heads and the possibility of up to 2 percent raises on merit. The draft budget anticipates an overall 3.5 percent increase in salary and wage expenses on the assumption that not all workers will earn merit raises, according to Town Manager Ryan Mahoney.

In addition, three department heads agreed to take just a 1 percent raise for 2019. The decision was made when department heads were working to whittle $500,000 out of the initial budget proposal, Mahoney said. Planning Director Susan Philp, Police Chief Greg Knott and Public Works Director Boyd Bierbaum agreed to the lower raises. The town just hired a new finance director, so she wasn’t eligible for a raise. Mahoney’s salary is determined by contract.

Mahoney said employees received a 5 percent raise in 2018. The town has 34 full-time employees this year.

The Town Council approved the draft budget in a first reading Tuesday night. It must pass a second reading Dec. 11.

The town’s general fund budget for next year is $14.16 million. The general fund budget was $15.38 million for this year but it is projected to come closer to $12.64 million. Mahoney said there were expenditures anticipated that didn’t come to fruition. The prime example was the purchase of roughly 1 acre of the former Pan and Fork property site for expansion of the Basalt River Park. That expenditure from dedicated open space funds will be budgeted again for 2019, though it’s uncertain if the deal will go down, he said.

The staff proposed budgeting only a modest increase in sales tax revenue, which supply the bulk of Basalt’s revenue. It appears the town will collect about $4.42 million in sales tax revenue this year. The budgeted amount for 2019 is $4.57 million.

An additional $1.85 million is budgeted in revenue for the sales tax dedicated to the open space and trails program.

On the expenditure side, operations account for $6.36 million of the 2019 budget. The Police Department accounts for about $2.2 million in expenditures. Now fully staffed at 13 full-time equivalent employees, the department’s expenditures are up by about $233,000 for 2019.

The town will spend about $1.17 million on street projects, excluding salaries and wages.

A big part of the expenditures is paying off a $1.3 million in a line of credit taken out to help pay for the construction of a pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 at Basalt Avenue two years ago. Town officials decided to pay the debt off in full in January rather than when it was due in 2020 because interest rates are rising, Mahoney said. By paying off the debt sooner, the town will save about $40,000 in interest payments, he said.