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Trustees look for ways to cut draft budget imbalance

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Photo by Hank Lohmeyer A Cedaredge trustee work session at the golf course restaurant during its weekly Thursday dinner night brought out two speakers favoring golf operations which receive subsidies from water, sewer, and general tax revenues, and one sp

City department wish lists for capital spending along with expected income declines in some areas have created a Cedaredge draft budget for 2017 that is "way upside down" in the general fund, noted Town Administrator Katie Sickles during a budget work session last week.

Trustees and town staff met in the Sept. 8 session to establish priorities for spending requests in the general fund and other budget funds.

The general fund shortfall includes a big decline in expected mineral and severance tax receipts and golf course loan write-off of $16,000 coming out of tax revenues, according to town documents.

Trustee work sessions are normally held at the Civic Center. But last week's work session was held at the golf course restaurant in order to encourage constituent input on the budget. Trustees and staff dined on burgers, Reubens and other fare during the restaurant's once-a-week dinner night. The session's format was also a departure from normal as constituent comments -- something normally not allowed at work sessions -- were opened to restaurant patrons, some of whom observed the proceedings while enjoying a favorite adult beverage.

Two constituents, the men's golf club president who lives at Austin and a resident of Stonebridge, offered comments that favored golf operations that are being subsidized with money from Cedaredge's water and sewer utility fees and general tax revenues. Another constituent who also lives in the golf course neighborhood said that golf course expenses should be brought into line with available golf revenues.

But it wasn't only problems in the general fund and golf fund that occupied trustees. In a three-page staff memo prepared for the work session, trustees learned that, "The 2017 draft budget... is not balanced between revenues and expenditures." The three pages listed specific spending requests that trustees were asked to prioritize with the assistance of department heads in an effort to target cuts for the next draft budget. At the end of the memo trustees learned that "although the [town] board has unassigned reserves that can fund special projects, the [budget] deficit of $422,136 must be reduced by at least $350,000."

Other 2017 proposed budget highlights include a 3 percent across-the-board pay increase for town employees; and, the cost of pumping effluent from the new sewer plant uphill for a mile to the Surface Creek discharge point has risen from an expected $42,000 annually to $54,000.

The trustees do not make final decisions at work sessions. Priorities assigned to spending items at the work session will be worked into the next budget draft. Final budget approval is in December.

Other discussion at the work session included the following items:

• The Jay Avenue Bridge replacement project, which is expected to be completed this year.

• Trustees talked about the long delayed "enhancement project" at Grand Mesa Drive and Main Street. The project is being pushed into 2017 or 2018. There were various ideas for a scaled down version discussed. Engineers say another $33,415 is needed at this point to help get legal and paperwork snags ironed out.

• Trustees want to refinance a USDA Rural Development loan at a lower interest rate. They also want to include in the package an additional $175,000 to pay for buying out the Upper Surface Creek water association's ownership interest in the Cedaredge water utility.

Read more from:
Surface Creek
Budget, Cedaredge
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