Pay raises part of preliminary Carbondale town budget | AspenTimes.com

Pay raises part of preliminary Carbondale town budget

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – Carbondale town employees would receive a 2 percent cost-of-living pay raise under the town’s proposed 2012 municipal budget, which is currently being reviewed by the Town Board.

It would be the first pay increase for town workers in the three years since a wage freeze was put in place in the aftermath of the national recession.

Continuing sales tax declines as well as drops in other revenues over the past two years have resulted in pay cuts, furlough days, a hiring freeze and even some layoffs within Carbondale’s town government.

But new Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington believes the town must now work at retaining workers.

“The draft budget for next year reflects a 2 percent COLA (cost of living allowance) for employees,” Harrington said after another in a series of 2012 budget work sessions with trustees this week.

“Employee retention is a goal,” he said, noting that the town saw a 10 percent employee turnover this year. “There are costs associated with that when it comes to hiring and training new employees, and we would like to try to stem that a little bit.”

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Harrington, who took the helm as Carbondale’s new town manager in August, said for the most part, though, the town is simply looking to maintain existing service levels for the coming year.

Trustees are reviewing a $5.1 million general fund budget for 2012, which is based on sales taxes and other revenues remaining about the same as this year.

This year’s budget had been based on a 1 percent increase in sales taxes over 2010 levels. However, through August, sales taxes were running about 0.5 percent behind last year. Carbondale did see a significant sales tax increase for August, however, when collections came in 8.6 percent over the August 2010 numbers.

Overall, including the water and wastewater enterprise funds, recreation spending, capital projects and other special funds, the town is looking at total spending in 2012 of close to $12.8 million.

“We have brought forth a balanced budget based on projected revenues,” Harrington said. A budget work session with the town board on Oct. 18 gave the trustees their first look at the hard numbers, he said.

“The biggest challenge continues to be that the town’s service demands are higher than funding levels can support,” he said.

“I think the town has taken a rather conservative approach in recent years, and the result is a good fund balance,” he added.

Carbondale’s projected general fund balance for this year is $4.8 million. The proposed budget does not envision dipping into those reserves, although about $338,000 in unfunded budget requests are still open for discussion.

They include such things as improvements at the intersection of Highways 133 and 82 and town vehicle replacements, including one police car that is not currently covered in the budget.

The town has also received about $129,000 in funding requests from various community organizations, about twice the amount available for that purpose, Harrington said.

“Those are all issues that the board will continue to discuss through the budget process,” he said.

A final 2012 Carbondale town budget is expected to be presented in late November.

jstroud@postindependent.com

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