After numerous adjustments and cuts totaling about $165,000, the Town of Paonia presented a balanced draft budget for fiscal year 2018 at Tuesday night's public budget hearing. The statutorily required hearing was to be held during the regularly-scheduled meeting of the board of trustees Tuesday, Nov. 14.
Among those cuts is a $42,000 reduction in contract services as trustees consider termination of the parks maintenance contract with Mikel Altenhofen.
The town is statutorily required to pass a balanced budget before the Dec. 15 deadline to certify the property tax mill levy to the county commissioners. With sales tax, property tax and severance fund income all down from prior years, and no clear plan to make up for the reductions in income, cuts have to be made.
"The town is looking at ways of saving money," said Mayor Charles Stewart. "This is one very clear option."
Last December the board unanimously voted to enter a three-year, $41,928-per-year contract with Altenhofen, who also submitted the winning parks contract bid the prior six years. He was the only contractor to submit a proposals for the three-year contract. According to the contract, either party can terminate the agreement "at any time by giving the other party at least 30 days prior written notice."
Under the current contract Altenhofen is responsible for maintenance and irrigation of Paonia Town Park (including the Dan Lawrence football field and Ellen Hansen-Smith Teen Center area, but excluding the skate park), Apple Valley Park (excluding the tennis courts), Poulos Park and Lee's Common, which total about 15 acres. The contractor is also responsible for park reservations and some maintenance.
As a private contractor Altenhofen receives no benefits. His job-related expenses include purchase of machinery, including lawnmowers, weed trimmers, fuel and oil, tools, and most of his materials; hiring of and providing public liability insurance for additional labor; and worker's compensation insurance.
If the town drops the contract, the responsibilities would fall on the public works department. Town administrator Ken Knight has looked very carefully at how that will work, said Stewart. "We think we can do this with existing staff."
Also included in the draft budget are a handful of pay increases. Stewart explained that pay increases of two percent for employees who meet or exceed job expectations are being recommended, along with increases for police chief Neil Ferguson, town clerk Corinne Ferguson and building inspector Dave Coleman.
A part-time police officer position is also being considered for FY 2018.