Cindy Jones - Paonia Finance Officer

Cindy Jones - Paonia Finance Officer 

The town of Paonia continues to hammer out its 2022 budget; however, the process isn’t going as smoothly as Town Finance Officer Cindy Jones would like.

“We’re adding some (more work sessions) because we’re not progressing said,” Jones last week.

“It’s hard to put a budget together when the council is split and the public is split. Right now we’re at no confidence so, I am hesitate,” she said, adding that she’s already detailed five different draft budget scenarios.

Jones provided a quick overview of the budget in September, but said since then it’s been difficult to figure out how the board wants her to proceed going forward. There’s numerous opinions from board members and the public over nearly every issue brought forth during previous work sessions.

The next budget work session is scheduled for Nov. 16, as a stand alone meeting, followed by a public hearing scheduled Nov. 23 which will take place as part of the regular board meeting. Jones said it’s possible they will have to conduct another work session before the Nov. 23 public hearing.

The final budget must be presented and approved by Dec. 14 since the mil levy is due to Delta County on Dec. 15. The completed budget is due to the state by Dec. 30.

Jones said currently the town has budgeted an estimated revenue of $5,884,000 and estimated expenses of $5,898,000. Jones explained why the estimated expenses out pace the estimated revenue.

“I am estimating out the rest of this year and then comparing that to what I have budgeted and making adjustments,” she said, “I am doing the budget a little different than I’ve done in the past.”

Jones said in the past, she would only budget projects for certain funds like the Conservation Trust Fund and leave the rest in reserves. This time around she is budgeting in the entire amount.

“I am budgeting to use it all this year. It still rolls into the reserves and that reserve will maintain until we do use if for this project or gets reallocated to a different project,” she said, adding that the process will also include the capital improvement, sidewalks, street improvement capital funds.

Jones said the change has to do with the fluctuating prices for labor and materials due to the pandemic. The town previously budgeted .5 million for the one million tank liner repair. This year it’s looking at roughly one million to complete the project.

“With the new (business) environment we have to have the contingencies or we have to go back and amend the budget every time and that’s a lot of work,” she said.

Jones said she expects the board to enact a water increase this year. Ty Long, Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), held a public informational meeting recently to explain why a water rate increase is necessary.

“The study is called a ‘COSA’ or cost of service analysis rather than a rate study,” Jones said, adding that there will not be a rate increase for trash and sewer.

Town Administrator Corinne Ferguson said the last rate study was conducted in 2016.

“We were discussion having a rate study done, typically those can be pretty pricey when you go out to companies. I’ve seen studies that have cost other towns anywhere between five to twenty thousand dollars,” Ferguson said.

The cost of service analysis was conducted at no charge to the town; however, Long recommend the town should consider raising its water rates to pay for a long term plan for future water projects. The public can view the entire RCAC presentation at the Town of Paonia YouTube channel.

Lisa Young is a staff writer at the Delta County Independent.

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