Cortez shows budget draft
Recycling costs may force $2.25 monthly garbage fee increase
Cortez city councilors got their first look at the preliminary budget for 2014, a document that City Manager Shane Hale noted is still a work in progress, during a two-day budget work session Wednesday, Oct. 8 and Thursday, Oct. 9.
Total city expenditures currently are estimated at $11,326,747 for 2014 a 5.4 percent increase from the latest projection for spending in 2013 of $10,747,230.
At this early stage in budgeting, Hale said expenditures are estimated at the high end and revenues are estimated conservatively — a budgetary precaution taken so the city would get a clear idea of what a worst-case scenario might look like.
Revenues were projected to come in at $14,590,960 for 2014, a decrease of 5.2 percent from latest projected 2013 revenues of $15,393,121.
“This is a really rough draft.” Hale said. He added as the budget is revised with more complete information, budget numbers are more likely to improve — with expenditures going down and revenues going up — than worsen in future revisions.
Final budget approval is still months away, but work sessions on Tuesday, Oct. 8 and Wednesday, Oct. 9, kicked off the process with city councilors getting overviews from department heads.
Recycling continues to be a money drain for the city, likely forcing a $2.25 monthly rate increase request to go before city councilors when the approval of a fee structure associated with the budget comes before the council.
“If you want to make the budget whole, you would eliminate recycling,” said Public Works Director Jack Nickerson. Later adding, “I’m just saying this as an abstract. I’m not proposing it.”
City councilors, Hale and Nickerson all agreed the resistance from residents to elimination of the budget-draining recycling program would be more substantial than residents’ resistance to a raise in monthly garbage fees from $15.75 to $18.00. Another $2 monthly increase also is proposed for 2015.
“You’re going to run into a lot of resistance,” Councilor Shawna McLaughlin said if the city ever dared to propose eliminating recycling.
Nevertheless, Nickerson described the program as “not self-sustainable.” He added: “Recycling is a $130,000 blackhole in the refuse budget that brings in $35,000.”
Another fee increase likely to come before councilors is a 50 cent increase in daily admission to the Cortez Recreation Center.
Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist estimated the daily fee increases would generate an additional $10,000 to pay the bills at the Recreation Center.
Costs of the Affordable Care Act for the city are limited, but the Parks and Recreation will bear the brunt of the increases as several seasonal employees caring for parks and the golf course now must be covered with health insurance — bumping insurance costs for Parks and Recreation from $42,000 in 2013 to $66,710 in 2014.
Parks and Recreation also will shift jobs around to allow for better administration of the Recreation Center, which is viewed as the city’s premier asset, but the staff changes should come from modifications of the current employees’ duties, and it isn’t expected to add a new full-time employee to the payroll.
The Cortez Municipal Airport, which is undergoing a $2.5 million runway shoulder project, has seen a 5 percent increase in passenger boardings this year, said Russ Machen, airport director. But it is still shy of 10,000 boardings — a figure that would bring it an additional $1 million in federal funding.
Also, the airport continues to struggle with a prairie dog problem with poison gas keeping the critters at bay for about “half a week” before a new squadron of rodents moved in and replaced those killed in action during the gas attack.
Ami Fair, director of marketing, told councilors the city is working to revise it’s Relocation Guide to provide more timely and accurate information to attract people looking to relocate.
The new guide would replacer a plethora of pamphlets, guides and books now sent to prospects that is “duplicative, inefficient and costly” Fair said.
She added, “We’re spending a lot of money and not sending out the message we want.”
In addition, the Relocation Guide would work with a better website and Internet presence to make the messaging of benefits of Cortez and Montezuma County easier to obtain online.