“In the aggregate it’s a fairly positive picture, but I don’t know that we can discern an upward trend,” said Town Manager Greg Clifton during a budget worksession with council last Tuesday (Sept. 14).
Sales tax revenues for the year are lining up to come in according to budget projections, and total Real Estate Transfer Tax collections are projected to come in at $2.3 million, or $600,000 ahead of the budgeted $1.7 million. There’s even a chance that as many as 17 closings of the luxury Element 52 condominium project could take place by the end of the year to generate as much as $1.5 million more in RETT for the town.
Yet despite these, council was hesitant to assume that a recovery is indeed here, directing Clifton to begin preparing next year’s budget based on actual revenues – or perhaps even a bit less by taking exceptions like the sales tax revenue generated by the August Phish concerts out of the equation because they are not guaranteed to return next year.
“I think conservative is the way to go,” said Mayor Stu Fraser.
“I felt that way even before the downturn,” said Councilmember Thom Carnevale. “I think it would be unwise to feel that this is going to be a growth period,” he continued.
But in the event that 2011 does usher in a definitive recovery, council also supported the idea to establish a Road and Alley Fund within the existing Capital Fund in which to stockpile unspent money toward desperately needed road, alley and sidewalk projects including rebuilding the Spur and repaving Colorado Avenue.
“We would like to start adding to those reserves every year and start planning on larger projects that are very much needed,” Clifton explained.
“We would put monies into it every year that would remain and rollover every year.”
“I think this discussion of keeping things in reserve is excellent,” said Councilmember Ann Brady.
“I feel pretty strongly that we should make the 2011 budget fall in line with the actuals of 2010 and maybe even reduce the RETT projection,” said Councilmember David Oyster. “If we come up with more money we have places where it should go; we’re way behind on some pretty critical infrastructure stuff,” he continued.
“It seemed like the party was never going to end, but it did and we have to clean up.”
Clifton also advocated that the town continue its present hiring freeze, and no councilmember disagreed.
The philosophy presumes that three questions appearing on the statewide ballot in November that will result in massive cuts and restrictions on municipal budgets, Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, do not pass.
“If we get to the November election and find something did pass we’re back to the table pretty quickly and will have to make changes,” said Clifton, who recommended that the town not prepare a second budget accounting for those cuts just yet.
“We think it’s more prudent to do it then than to do it now.”
Council will hold a special budget meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at 8 a.m.
Council Signs Joint Resolution Opposing Statewide Ballot Measures
Regarding the three statewide ballot questions: Proposition 101 and Amendments 60 and 61, the Telluride Town Council joined with the San Miguel County Commissioners, the Mountain Village Town Council and the San Miguel County Public Library District No. 1 board of directors in signing a joint resolution opposing the measures. Each group held separate meetings last week regarding the ballot questions/
While all local governments and special district are projecting massive budget cuts and an inability to finance capital improvement projects for longer than 10 years if each of the measures pass, the Town of Telluride would see a $441,000 annual loss of revenue after already eliminating eight full-time employees as well as seasonal workers, reducing its capital expenditures by 50 percent, and its contributions toward community programs and events by 12 percent as a result of the recession.
The Town of Norwood and the Telluride Fire Protection, Hospital and School districts will also sign the joint resolution and the Towns of Ophir and Rico both have plans to pass similar resolutions.
Pandora Water Treatment Plant Contract Approved
After 17 years of spade work including securing the 2005 voter approval of a $10 million bond for construction on the new Pandora Water Treatment Plant high in Bridal Veil Basin, the town may be a step closer to finally starting on the project. Council voted 5-2 last Tuesday to approve an $11 million contract for the project with Southwest Contracting.
“This is something that is so critical to the future of this community,” said Mayor Stu Fraser. “It would take care of a safe water supply with storage capacity that we don’t have now.”
In its approval council agreed to allow the Cortez company to renegotiate its raw materials costs in the event the contractor is not given notice to proceed by this December 15. While the contractor is concerned that raw materials prices may increase substantially between now and the start of the contract, the clause also requires it to reduce its price in the event those costs go down.