Ignacio Town Board tweaks its 2013 budget

Staff members lose cost-of-living adjustment

IGNACIO – Less than a month after the Ignacio Town Board approved a $4.2 million 2013 budget, the trustees Tuesday decided to revote on several revenue and expenditure increases included in the document.

The board decided to reconsider gas and water-fee increases, cost-of-living raises for employees and a $20,000 cost to cover one-quarter of the salary for a new police officer.

The board already had voted on those issues, but those actions were deemed invalid because they were made at a budget work session Dec. 4. The board approved a final budget on Dec. 11 to comply with state deadlines.

On Tuesday, trustees again approved increases in water fees by $5 per month and raised natural-gas rates to a flat rate of $7.50 per thousand cubic feet per month. The board also voted against a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increases for staff members, which it favored during the December budget work session.

The board did change course on a decision to pay one-quarter of a police officer’s salary, which is otherwise funded by grant money. The additional officer would help cut overtime costs and would expand the police department’s coverage area as well as its presence in local schools, Ignacio Police Chief Kirk Phillips said.

Town officials also used Tuesday’s meeting to respond to an anonymous letter given to residents citing various concerns about the town budget.

The letter focused on the town’s expenditures.

“We want the Town Government of Ignacio to stop spending and cut, cut, cut,” it said.

Town Planner Miriam Gillow-Wiles said many of the flier’s allegations were incorrect.

The town must supplement its money-losing water and sewer funds with excess revenues generated from the gas fund, though last year annual transfers to the water and sewer funds totaled $65,000, not $165,000, Gillow-Wiles said, citing the flier. The flier also said the gas fund makes a 200-percent profit, though estimates from 2012 show that the gas fund profits were closer to 3 percent.

An analysis by the Department of Local Affairs also identified concerns that Ignacio’s water fund “has displayed a lack of alignment between revenues and expenditures which started in 2006 and continued through 2011.”

The report noted that the sewer fund has operated at a loss for the last two years, with increases in liabilities failing to correspond with any increase in assets.

On a positive note, the report said the town has seen a positive trend in retail sales-tax collections since 2004. Retail sales have increased by more than 50 percent during that period, the report said.