MONTROSE – Only about 35 people showed up for an open house on the 2012 Montrose city budget Monday night, and most of their concerns were minor, said Shani Whittenberg, the city’s finance director.
The $3 increase in the recycling fee was “the most contentious,” she said, but city staff explained that the increase will bring in $216,000, which is needed to keep the system going.
Others asked why the city was contributing $600,000 to the Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism and nothing to the Downtown Development Authority, Whittenberg said, but DDA director Bob Brown stepped in and fielded the question.
“He said that the money doesn’t have to come directly to DDA to benefit DDA,” she said. “He and Montrose ACT are working together.”
The city’s total budget for 2012 is $41,267,963, stated city manager Bill Bell, in a report to the Montrose City Council, and that amount is the result of an “extensive effort” on the part of staff and elected officials. City sales and use tax revenues are down, Bell said, and the budget was scrutinized line by line.
Most staff positions that were vacated in 2011 were not refilled, he said, and from 2008 to 2011, staff has been reduced by 11 percent, from 188 to 169.
Jobs that weren’t refilled include a park maintenance worker, some administrative staff positions, human resources specialists and a purchasing position in the accounts payable section, Whittenberg said.
Whittenberg said she believes the open house was a success.
“It turned out fine, pretty much,” she said. “People had ideas, and coming to the meeting helped them understand a little better.”
But sales tax revenues are still down and are budgeted to go down by another two percent from 2011, Bell told the council.
General fund revenues for 2012, however, are projected to increase to $17,010,390, a 1.3 percent increase over the 2011 budget. Whittenberg said the increase comes primarily from the state, mostly through the highway users tax and severances taxes.
As of Dec. 31, 2011, the general fund balance was at $5.7 million, Bell said, well above the 15 to 20 percent of the city’s budgeted general fund operating expenditures that is required by city regulations. An adequate minimum reserve would be about $2.4 million, he said.
The city is allocating $816,682 in the 2012 budget to its capital improvement fund, which will devote $553,000 to a variety of projects, including sidewalk construction and property improvements. Among the improvements will be continuing work on Grand Ave. where it connects to Main Street, to alleviate some of the congestion on Townsend Ave. Grand Ave. begins as a four-lane in front of the Montrose Justice Center, but the rest of the street will remain two lanes, Whittenberg said, and the work will include widening the shoulders and improving the road.
The city received a transportation enhancement grant from the state for sidewalk construction on South Townsend Ave. from “roughly Wal-Mart to Woodgate Road,” that will improve pedestrian traffic and cost $375,000. The city will also spend $78,000 to demolish a building at South First St. and Uncompahgre Ave., to be landscaped as an extension of Centennial Plaza.
The city also plans a transfer of $50,000 from the general fund to help match a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for a whitewater park on the Uncompahgre River. Bell noted that the idea had “emerged as a high priority” from the recently completed Riverway Master Plan, and is scheduled for construction in 2013.
The city also plans to allocate $3 million for a three-million-gallon water tank to be added to the distribution system at the south end of town, which will be partly paid for by a $500,000 Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance grant that was awarded in 2007.
The city is also allocating $561,000 for four mowers, a crack sealer, a multi-function mower, a garbage truck, a pickup truck for the wastewater plant, an SUV for the Community Development Department. Bell told the city council that the city’s fleet management goal is to maintain no more than 20 percent of the fleet beyond its life cycle.
The city will also include purchases for better computer technology for city departments that total $114,000.
Bell said that while the city “has weathered the losses of revenue effectively,” it will “keep up the push to continue with capital improvement funding,” and that staff remains vigilant in managing the budget. He said he want to city to keep moving forward, even in the economic downturn.
In light of the bad economy, Whittenberg said the attitude at city hall is to manage the budget day-by-day while continuing to analyze employee positions and expenditures, which makes budgeting easier to do.
“I don’t think it’s going to get any better soon, but we will continue to be efficient, to move the city forward,” she said.