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Shortfall has Hotchkiss looking for budget cuts

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The Town of Hotchkiss is looking to trim almost $160,000 in order to balance its draft budget for fiscal year 2017. The draft budget projects 2017 revenues of $741,269 and expenses of $901,209.

Mayor Wendell Koontz said the town is closely evaluating all discretionary spending for the coming year, and is considering cuts in "anything that we could possibly change without hurting current services and staffing levels."

In looking at where to make cuts, council is eyeing staff training, raises and health insurance premiums, and is considering creative ways to provide affordable life insurance benefits, said Mayor Koontz. The main concern, he said, is ensuring that the town covers mandated costs, including training for the Marshall's Office.

Enterprise funds are anticipated to remain healthy in 2017. Water fund revenues of $450,479 and expenses of $386,043 are projected; revenues of $1,094,081 and expenses of $1,095,996 are projected for the sanitation fun; and the garbage fund projects 2017 revenues of $120,736 and expenses of $113,000.

The health of those funds is the result of close monitoring of expenses and regular increases in fees over the last 25 years, said Mayor Koontz.

The Conservation Trust Fund, which comes from sales of Colorado Lottery tickets, is expected to see revenues of $10,835. Funds are distributed on a per capita basis to communities providing park and recreation services by the Department of Local Affairs.

Due to a projected shortfall in the 2016 budget, Hotchkiss may have to dip into savings for the first time in recent history. By the end of the year the town projects total revenues of the year of $777,335 and expenses of $832,790. The town has always been conservative in drafting the annual budget and estimates high for expenses and low for revenues, said deputy clerk Ginger Redden. But in 2016, "For the first time, the town received less than budgeted."

Declines in severance tax and mineral leasing revenues due to the continuing decline in coal mining in the North Fork Valley and other factors accounts for about $12,700 of the 2016 estimated $55,455 shortfall. Mayor Koontz said he's warned for almost a decade that the decline will effect town budgets. In 2015 the town received $47,316 in mining related revenues; in 2017 they project a total of $17,000. "This is the impact," he said.

Fortunately, they have savings to fall back on due to the town's prudent practices with reserves, which dates back about 25 years, said Mayor Koontz. "All departments are very frugal with taxpayer money."

A line item of $50,000 in the 2016 Capital Improvement Fund earmarked for broadband was not carried over to the 2017 budget. "We can't afford it," said Mayor Koontz.

The draft budget is available at Town Hall. A date for the next budget work session will be set at this Thursday's regular council meeting.

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