Snowmass predicts 75 percent drop in RETT collections |

Snowmass predicts 75 percent drop in RETT collections

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE ” Based on first quarter returns, the town of Snowmass Village is currently projecting a 75 percent decrease in its 2009 real estate transfer tax collections. The tax funds such public amenities as trails, flower gardens, buses and the Snowmass Recreation Center.

The town budget, passed in October, anticipated collecting more than $3.5 million in 2009. But as real estate sales have continue to slide, the town recently reined that estimate back by nearly $2.25 million ” to about $1.25 million.

“There’s just very few sales occurring right now, though recently there have been a few more contracts,” said Town Manager Russ Forrest. First quarter returns dropped “in the neighborhood” of 75 percent between 2008 and 2009, he said.

The real estate transfer tax funds Snowmass’s recreation and open space ” as well as bus purchases, maintenance and fuel.

“Those were identified as needs, obviously, as the [real estate transfer tax] was created,” Forrest said.

Forrest expected the Snowmass Recreation Center would be the last place staff would recommend a cut ” and said he wasn’t sure what, if any, cuts might be made there. The RETT is currently the only funding source for an approximately $600,000 annual subsidy of the rec center.

However, Forrest did expect that the town would defer the replacement of at least some new buses. He also expected to defer any scheduled work to improve Snowmass’s entryway.

The town might also need to cut various other transportation capital items this year, noted Marianne Rakowski, Snowmass’s finance director, in a recent memo to Town Council. Those include video surveillance, a radio phone system and a bus depot announcement system. Staff might also recommend delaying scheduled work on bus stops and trails, she wrote.

And Forrest noted that the town would likely cut back on landscaping this coming summer.

“We potentially may not do all our flower gardens,” he said, adding that the town would likely still maintain highly visible areas.

Snowmass town staff is still in the process of ironing out a plan to present to Town Council in the first week of June, said Forrest. Council will have the final decision about what, if any, cuts are made.

The recent prediction is arguably yet another example of Snowmass’s conservative approach to the current recession.

In January, for example, Snowmass adopted a contingency budget based on an anticipated 20 percent decline in sales tax in 2009. So far this year, Snowmass has seen declines of only 17 percent in January and 10 percent in February.

“Traditionally, Marianne, our finance director ” and most finance directors are like this ” is conservative from a revenue standpoint,” Forrest said. “We’ll be pleasantly surprised if more revenue comes in.”

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