S’mass Town Council starts 2020 budget discussions

A ring sculpture in front of the Snowmass Town Hall.
Anna Stonehouse/Snowmass Sun

Snowmass Town Council started to dissect the 2020 town budget plan during a special meeting Oct. 14.

During this first budget meeting, council members decided on a few preliminary changes to the plan for further discussion, including a $25,000 addition to the Citizen Grants Review Board budget for grant awards to local nonprofits and an additional trails enforcement position.

“It’s the manager’s job to propose the budget and it’s council’s job to adopt it, so if it’s not meeting your needs or you want to change something, I’m kind of handing it off to you,” said Clint Kinney, town manager, at the Oct. 14 meeting.

Kinney and Marianne Rakowski, town finance director, explained the specifics of this year’s budget plan, which was crafted with the same conservative mindset as years past and guided by the town’s strategic initiatives.

This year, town officials modestly projected gaining $34.5 million in revenue, with over 60% coming from sales, property, real estate transfer, lodging and excise taxes; and distributing $35.7 million in expenditures, with 45% going toward personnel services and nearly 19% toward capital improvement projects.

The town experienced an 11 percent uptick in town and marketing sales tax revenue over 2019, according to town officials, and is expected to start the year with more than $39 million in total funds.

“This is not meant to be a numbers exercise … what this is hopefully for you all is a time to talk about policy and projects and different things that you want to get done,” Kinney said at the start of the Oct. 14 meeting. “We really need your help with the big picture stuff to make sure we’re making investments in the right spots.”

The 2020 plan looks to increase its reserve amounts and to add four new staff positions: a full-time, year-round solid waste worker; a part-time assistant recreation assistant; a shift of a full-time seasonal housing maintenance mechanic to a full-time, year-round position; and a full-time seasonal marketing events coordinator.

As Kinney and Rakowski went line-by-line through the 2020 proposed changes and fund allocations in each town money pot, council brought up a few areas of concern, including ensuring local law enforcement is adequately staffed to cover the new buildings, trails and events expected in 2020, and that local area nonprofits have more of an opportunity to receive town grant money.

“I just think we’ve had a lot of complaints all summer long,” said Councilman Tom Goode of Snowmass trails. “I’m not saying we need to be out policing all of the trails, but if people are out rotating around at the trailheads handing out knowledge, … I think it’s important.”

Town officials also touched on the large capital improvement projects the town aims to both continue and take on in 2020, including:

Construction of Coffey Place deed-restricted housing ($2.1 million)

Continued planning and engineering of the proposed Village Mall transit center ($600,000)

Continued design work on the Town Park reconfiguration ($100,000)

Planning and design of stairs to connect Brush Creek Road to Brush Creek Lane ($50,000) and of a walkway between Mountain View employee housing to the Village Mall ($60,000)

A new bike skills trail ($45,000)

Planning and design for the renovation of Mountain View I employee housing

A number of smaller, “one-time” projects also were touched on, including $85,000 for continued improvement of Village Shuttle maps and website design, and a $200,000 placeholder to generate discussion on potentially implementing a summer parking program.

Kinney and Rakowski also said locals can expect to see the same daily parking fees and solid waste fees in 2020, but an increase in town rental fees. Studio rents will increase by $10 each month, one bedrooms by $15, two bedrooms by $20 and three bedrooms by $30.

After about two hours of discussion, Town Council decided to continue their budget talks and wait until after its Oct. 21 meeting with financial analysis and budgeting professionals to make any definitive changes to the 2020 plan.

A public hearing on next year’s budget is scheduled for Nov. 4.