MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – At its last meeting of 2011, Mountain Village Town Council reassessed its financial footing moving into the New Year, approving what it deemed a feasible budget for 2012.
At budget meetings that began in September, the Mountain Village Town Council and staff acknowledged that property tax-driven revenue streams will dry up in the coming fiscal year, due to precipitous drops in property values throughout the community.
The 2012 budget will fund certain community and regional projects and organizations, including the (The) New Community Coalition (TNCC), Telluride Conference Center, Telluride-Montrose Regional Air Organization and Mountain Village Dial-a-Ride program, among others.
In one big change to the 2012 budget, since its first reading, council put $25,000 toward funding an extension of the operating season of the Mountain Village-to-Telluride Gondola.
At the Thursday, Dec. 8 meeting, councilmembers hashed out the remaining moving parts to what Town Finance Director Kevin Swain and Town Manager Kim Montgomery called a “workable” budget, with very few changes made from the budget’s first reading.
The bottom line, said Mountain Village Mayor Bob Delves, is that the town has braced itself for a tough economic climate in 2012, and must continue to pare down its expenditures in anticipation of even bleaker financial prospects ahead.
“Our budget is a real challenge,” Delves said following council’s approval of the 2012 budget, noting that the town’s revenues are down significantly from last year by roughly 15 percent. And that’s a trend that the town’s finance department doesn’t see changing anytime soon.
“We’re pretty sure we’ve got at least three more years of tough budgets ahead of us. It seems to be getting worse every year – not better,” Delves said, and “therefore we felt we needed to tighten our belts even further this year.” He went on to note that council had to prioritize, and thus say no to some projects and organizations that otherwise would have received funding.
One of those projects is the Town of Telluride’s Society Turn Roundabout construction project, to which Mountain Village pledged $25,000 project in its 2012 budget. The Town of Telluride had hoped the MV contribution might increase, with Telluride Town Manager Greg Clifton at the meeting to ask for $75,000 more for his town’s roughly $900,000 project, slated to break ground this spring.
But that was not to be, and discussion about funding a roundabout at the “gateway” of the Telluride-Mountain Village communities quickly shifted to Mountain Village homeowners’ longstanding financial obligation to the Gondola, funded entirely by Mountain Village property owners through TMVOA, instead.
While the Gondola is not funded by the Town of Mountain Village, per se, Mountain Village property owners do pay hefty HOA dues to keep the multi-million dollar operation running throughout the year.
As Councilmember Cath Jett summed up, the town is not the position to ask taxpayers to fund other regional transportation services, in addition to the Gondola.
“I want to see [the two governments] join together in a cooperative effort,” Jett said, but consensus among “the residents up here” is that “that they’re already getting hit with the gondola.”
The Mountain Village Council agreed to consider putting more funds toward the cost of the roundabout in the future, should more funds become available, but it could be awhile.
As Delves said, “There’s not comfort here to commit a future council to money that we’re pretty sure we’re not going to have.”
One highly valued community transportation service stayed off the budgetary chopping block this go-round, but its future remains uncertain, past 2012. Although Dial-a-Ride was fully funded for the coming year, council made it clear that it cannot continue to fund the program, moving forward, to the degree that it has in the past, and agreed to discuss the future of Dial-a-Ride funding by March.