Trimming the fat in Aspen’s city budget |

Trimming the fat in Aspen’s city budget

ASPEN ” The latest round of budget cuts in the city of Aspen’s operation includes scaled-down parties, travel and a host of other cost-saving measures.

The Aspen City Council last week cut nearly $2 million from this year’s budget and have directed city financiers to develop scenarios involving additional 5 and 10 percent budget cuts, which will be presented in March.

The latest round of budget slashing includes more than $1 million in operational cuts to the city’s general fund. A salary freeze for all city employees has been put into place, which is expected to save roughly $425,000 in the general fund and another $727,000 across other departments.

Layoffs are likely in departments where workloads and revenues will drop off based on activity, such as the planning, building and engineering departments.

City Manager Steve Barwick said he and his staff are writing layoff policies and procedures.

“I have never had to lay off anyone in my career,” Barwick said of his 25 years in public administration, adding he’s never seen the economy in such a dismal state.

Barwick said he and his staff will spend the next five weeks drawing up scenarios for deeper cuts. The reductions will be based on the weakened economy lasting up to three years instead of the previously estimated one-year downturn.

Those scenarios will anticipate declining revenues in the parking and transportation fund, as well as the golf and recreation departments.

“It will be more fact-based conversations on revenues with the council, instead of it being based on people’s assumptions, which is what it is now,” Barwick said. “Everyone’s crystal ball needs a software upgrade, and we just have to adjust every month.”

This month’s cuts include:

– Closing the Aspen Ice Garden from April to September, which will save $159,791. A private group may take over the operations and lease the facility from the city.

– The building department has cut $137,916, which includes eliminating a position and reduced hours for two employees. Savings in rent, travel, training and consultants also are realized.

– The police department has cut $119,815 out of its budget. That includes savings to be found in equipment, training, administrative services, community safety officer training, and employee clothing.

– The planning department is slashing $95,010 from its budget. That includes the laying off of two employees in June, and cutting back on consultants, travel, training and newspaper ads.

– The finance department will save $75,000 by not filling a position that was recently vacated.

– Engineering will shave $60,000 by not filling a vacant project manager position.

– A vacant assistant city manager position will not be filled, saving $58,233.

– Savings found in the gymnastic contract, and additional charges at the city’s tennis courts, climbing wall and aerobics program, will save $46,000 in the recreation department.

– The streets department is saving $41,889 through cuts in materials, street signs, fleet fuel, utilities and other costs.

– The special events budget will be reduced by $33,700, which includes eliminating the filming of events, meals, photography, the Highlands Uphill event and advertising.

– Professional services like the Best Year Yet goal-setting program will save $27,384 in the information technology department.

– The elimination of the safety bonus program for employees who are accident free and take safety training will save $21,620.

– Community picnic: $20,000 cut from a budgeted $33,000.

– The city clerk’s department will save $15,070 by reducing materials, supplies, dinners for public officials, travel, training, published ordinances in The Aspen Times and temporary labor.

– Environmental health will save $13,000 by not publishing public service announcements in the newspaper, as well as discontinuing the E-waste pickup service and other initiatives. Travel and training is reduced; no Treos, the hand-held communication devices, will be used, and cheaper cell phones will be shared by employees.

– The Aspen Recreation Center will save $10,094 by eliminating temporary workers, and consistently charging swim teams for use of the pool.

– The holiday party will be shaved by $7,860 out of a budgeted $17,860.

– Elimination of the annual report in the Times, saving $7,000.

– The GIS department will have less training and travel for its employees, as well as other services like cell phones, remote access and consulting. The savings is $4,240.

– Elimination of the boards and commission party, giving only gifts to volunteers, with a savings of $4,000 out of an $8,000 budget.

– The human resources department will save $3,959 by cutting materials, supplies, services and temporary help.

– Latino networking: No Latino party this year, saving $1,980.

– The city attorney’s office will reduce its budget by $1,890 in temporary help.

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