Town proposes balanced, conservative 2021 budget for Snowmass council approval
For many years, the town of Snowmass Village has followed a fiscally conservative approach and method to its annual budget process.
Now years later while town staff work hard to project what this winter season will bring as the COVID-19 crisis continues into 2021, this fiscally conservative approach is “paying off” as the town anticipates keeping a balanced budget, carrying out over $5 million of capital improvement projects and having the flexibility to adapt and shift if things go wrong — all while keeping all of its major financial safeguards and reserves intact.
“The way we developed this budget is we wanted to make sure we weren’t putting ourselves in a more risky position and we tried to make cuts and assumptions that were right,” Kinney said. “… We are going to spend more than we bring in (for 2020), but for 2021 we’ve got things balanced we think.”
During a nearly five-hour special Town Council meeting Oct. 15, Kinney and Marianne Rakowski, town finance director, detailed the town’s proposed expenditures and projected revenue over the 2021 fiscal year.
On a broad level, the town is anticipating $30.32 million in revenues and $35.62 million in expenditures, with $5.94 million of these expenditures going toward capital projects or repairs set to be funded from reserves, unused “carry forward” money from the 2020 budget, and other “funds available” or existing, unappropriated sort of surplus funds now set aside for the projects, according to town documents.
Getting into more detail, Kinney and Rakowski said the town is planning for no increase in its 2021 town and marketing sales tax revenue over its 2020 projections, which are anticipated to be down 24.5%, and lodging tax revenue is being planned the same, anticipated to be down by 27%.
Emergency reserve funds in the General Fund, Marketing Fund, and Group Sales Fund are proposed to remain at 30% of operating revenues, and the Emergency Reserve funds in the Real Estate Transfer Tax Fund will remain at $4 million, keeping the town’s major financial safety nets in place. The town also has $14.8 million total in unappropriated “funds available” for use, subject to restriction based on the funds or town money pots that total amount breaks down into.
However, the town is looking to change policy this budget cycle to include building permit and plan check fees anticipated from the Base Village and Snowmass Center development projects as “on-going revenues” instead of “one-time revenues,” which would help offset ongoing expenses for the town and not restrict the funds to capital or one-time uses, Kinney explained.
The town also is proposing nearly $6 million in capital improvement projects, with $685,000 allocated for planning, design and beginning implementation of the Town Park redesign project; $800,000 for improvements to the Snowmass Inn workforce housing; $1.1 million for engineering, design and installation of boilers at the Top of the Village for Carriage Way Road snowmelt; and $1.35 million for planning, design and initial construction of interior and exterior renovation of Mountain View I housing.
And although the town would love to complete the projects to keep in line with its guiding community goals and standards if council approves them, Kinney said these expenditures are the easiest to cut if worse comes to worse.
While Kinney and Rakowski expressed confidence with the town’s financial standing even amid the COVID-19 crisis, Town Council wanted to know hypothetically speaking how long the town of Snowmass Village could operate if the resort was forced to shutdown again.
Hypothetically, Rakowski said looking at the general fund alone — which includes costs of general administration, public safety, finance, community development, parks and recreation and transportation — it would cost $49,000 a day in operations which could be covered for 306 days or 84% of the year using that fund’s total fund balance.
But Rakowski and Kinney said if it came down to that, the town would look to cut expenses like capital projects and to use its “funds available,” which also would buy the town time as it has $14.8 million total in unappropriated monies across all of its funds.
“As long as there’s that ‘funds available,’ that at the end of the day shows we’ve got the reserves fully funded, we’ve got everything fully funded and this is the amount of money over and above funding all of our safety nets that’s available,” Kinney explained to council Oct. 15. “That’s what we aimed for, to make sure we weren’t cutting this thing on the knife’s edge and that there is an opportunity here if things go south.”
Some other noteworthy proposed changes and aspects of town operations affected by the 2021 budget include eliminating the town-subsidized late night taxi service this winter season, as bars and restaurants are expected to close earlier than in years past due to the ongoing pandemic and county public health orders, saving the town roughly $12,000; and eliminating the entire town-subsidized “dial-a-ride” taxi service starting with the 2021-22 winter season, saving the town roughly $19,000 that season.
And while it would like the opportunity to further analyze the impact of cutting the town’s “dial-a-ride” service, the Finance Advisory Board expressed overall agreement with and approval of the 2021 proposed budget, according to Board Chair Phil Sirianni, Jr.
“We support what they’ve done, they’ve done a balanced approach with what the revenue drops are. The expenditures are about the same as last year and they did look at what the impact of COVID was to make sure they’re in line,” Sirianni said to council Oct. 15. “So we support that. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen next year… in any event, obviously the biggest part of our revenues come in the wintertime and so the question is what is that impact going to be. And (the town has) made reasonable assumptions based on what happened last year.”
Town Council is expected to continue its review and vote on whether to approve the 2021 town budget at its Nov. 2 virtual meeting.