Pitkin County to review $21.5 million budget | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County to review $21.5 million budget

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Potential cuts in staffing and benefits will be on the table Tuesday when Pitkin County commissioners take their first formal look at a $21.59 million general fund budget for 2010 that has been cut 6.1 percent from 2009’s base budget.

Commissioners begin their budget review in the wake of news of staff cuts in both the city of Aspen and Snowmass Village. Aspen announced last month it would eliminate 16 positions and was laying off 12 individuals; last week, town government in Snowmass Village announced six layoffs and the elimination of another 2.5 positions.

Budget recommendations from County Manager Hilary Fletcher include the elimination of three vacant positions in the Community Development Department, at a cost savings of $230,614, plus “additional labor adjustments” of $335,000 that are not detailed in her memo to commissioners.

The base budget also reflects an increase of $130,247 in health-insurance costs, the elimination of merit pay increases for employees – a $266,310 annual reduction proposed for each of the next five years, a $200,000 cut in travel and training expenses, a $400,000 reduction in technology funding, the suspension of furniture purchases for an estimated $40,000 savings, a cut of about $100,000 in capital replacement spending and other operational reductions totaling $188,000.

The base budget also reflects the elimination of bus passes and a fitness/wellness benefit for employees for a savings of $167,000, but county staffers are recommending that commissioners restore the benefits in 2010, using undesignated and surplus funds.

“It is clear from employee input that these items are of value to them and, given the lack of salary increases, we believe it is a good investment in our employees to retain these benefits,” the memo said.

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Commissioners will also be asked to consider adding $530,121 in expenditures into the budget. They are so-called “buy-up” requests recommended by staff but not included in the base budget. The money would come from an estimated $654,519 in surplus funds next year.

The county anticipates a 5.56 percent reduction in revenues next year, compared to the 2009 budget. This year, about $1 million in operational cuts were made mid-year, and commissioners agreed to use $1.1 million in surplus funds to shore up the budget.

Commissioners will be asked to consider several sources of additional revenue for 2010 – adoption of the Model Traffic Code, adding about $50,000 in traffic-citation revenue; $87,000 from Community Development fee changes; and $180,000 from discontinuation of a sales tax vendor fee. The fee allows retailers to keep a percentage of sales tax revenues to cover the administrative costs of collecting the tax. Governments across the state, as well as Colorado state government, have identified elimination of the fee as a way to boost revenue. Pitkin County has allowed retailers to keep 3.3 percent of what they collect in county sales tax.

janet@aspentimes.com

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