PitkinCounty budget looks brighter, but bumps in the road remain
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – While the long-range economic forecast is looking up, Pitkin County officials learned Tuesday that the hit to the “community development fee” line item might run deep in the coming years.
In fact, the county’s Financial Advisory Board (FAB) is predicting a loss of more than $3 million over the next five years in projected community development fees.
“This is our largest variable,” FAB member Adam Frisch told the county commissioners during Tuesday’s work session. “We had hoped for a V-shaped recovery, but it is staying at a relatively flat point in this area. And we don’t know how long it will stay there.”
Thus, the FAB recommended a conservative approach to budgeting income from community development fees in its “2012 economic assumptions” report. The report, created by the FAB with staff input and presented to the BOCC as a guideline for creating next year’s budget, also includes advice for a five-year financial plan.
Overall, the FAB recommended slight increases over previous projections in areas such as sales tax/retail sales, due in part to the improving national and local economies.
Community development fees are different, however, as they are based in large part on new construction. In 2010, the FAB had projected community development fee increases of between 5 and 15 percent for the years 2012-2015. Now, the board is recommending fee increases of just 3 percent each year through 2016.
The recommendation is based on real numbers. According to county finance director John Redmond, community development fees for 2010 came in at $238,417 under budget, or down 14 percent; he is projecting a similar deficit in 2011.
“We realize what is happening,” said BOCC chairwoman Rachel Richards, thanking the FAB and community development director Cindy Houben for their honest assessment of the situation. “Now we have to set our future budgets based on that … that’s going to be our challenge.”
County staffers will now take the FAB’s recommendations into consideration while preparing the 2012 budget. It will likely be back before the board in late summer, finance department officials said Tuesday.
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.