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Berry gives parting words on budget, parks and trash

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Before her resignation took effect, Paonia Town Manager Jane Berry made a few recommendations to the town board at the Aug. 23 board meeting as the town welcomes an interim town manager and begins a search for a permanent administrator. Berry submitted her resignation in late July.

A much-needed project, said Berry, is to bring current the town's zoning map. Randy Wilmore, with Wilmore and Company Professional Land Surveying in Paonia, last updated the map early in 2007.

"The town desperately needs our zoning map updated," said Berry. The Delta County GIS department may be able to assist with the project. "Zoning has changed on several properties. That is a heavily referred-to document ... I would encourage the board to pursue that project with Randy."

Berry also gave a presentation on the town's second-quarter financial report and monthly budget-to-actual financial report ending July 31. While it's obvious the town doesn't want expenditures to exceed revenues, those numbers should, ideally, be between 47 and 53 percent of the current year budget. Half-way through the fiscal year, general fund revenues are lower than were anticipated in the 2016 budget, with both county and local sales tax revenues down from the previous year. Those revenues were at 45 percent of budget at the end of June, while expenditures were at 41 percent.

The town won't know until later this month what it will receive in severance and mineral tax payments, which will affect the budget and are expected to be down from prior years.

Expenditures that must be closely monitored include the police department, and specifically salaries. It's likely that by no later than mid-October, "One part-time employee will need to be laid off," or the town will over-expend, said Berry.

In addition, general fund expenditures were at 55 percent of budget at the end of July and now outrun revenues, "And that's not a position that we want to be in, even by a couple of percentage points." Berry anticipates the town will have to consider budget amendments for the general fund in the fourth quarter.

In the area of parks maintenance, said Berry, which is currently handled through an annual maintenance contract, that "all needs to be brought in-house in 2017 under public works."

In looking at the water fund budget, revenue is at 36 percent of the 2016 budget for two reasons: sales of water taps and sales of assets, which Berry called "two big areas in the projected budget for 2016." The town anticipated sales of water taps from construction of the approved Silver Leaf cohousing project and sale of town-owned land located off of Highway 133. The properties will be on the market in the near future, and Berry anticipates that the properties will sell this year.

The sale of taps for Silver Leaf, for which the town anticipated $190,000 and which has yet to break ground, will be more in the $137,000 range. Sewer tap sales were also anticipated at $50,000, but are currently at $5,000.

In looking at the budget for water and sanitation funds in relation to last year's rate increases, "In terms of water rates, we're right where we need to be," said Berry. Sewer fund expenditures are at 31 percent of budget, and trash is at 25 percent, which is "really slow, and that's a good thing for the sanitation fund." Where the sanitation fund is lagging, again, is in sales of assets. When the properties sell, "We'll be in much better shape."

Berry has recommended to the board in the past that the town get out of the trash collection business. She recommends that the board and town staff continue to look closely at that possibility. One interim option is for the town to only perform trash service two days a week to allow department workers more time to take on actual public works projects. "We simply have to get more public works done, and we ultimately need to get out of the trash business, or you're going to have some pretty big price tags for a new truck and other costs associated with that."

Berry provided Mayor Charles Stewart, town finance officer Cindy Jones and board finance committee members Karen Budinger and Bill Bear a list of approximately 22 finance discussion items that she recommends occur in the near future. Berry urged the board to carefully monitor the list in preparation for upcoming 2017 budget planning workshops.

The ongoing records retention project made good headway this summer, said Berry. "I'm really proud and pleased with the work that Kate Zachman and Chase Park have done to not only get rid of the things that (the town) should have gotten rid of years ago," said Berry, but to go through each of the many boxes and determine what should be kept. Boxes and boxes of documents that are not considered vital were piled up in an upstairs storage room, said Berry. "That effort will continue and our town clerk will be able to find records that are requested, as needed."

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