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Draft budget: $4 million in grants for Reservoir Hill development?

By Ed Fincher

Pagosa Springs Town Manager David Mitchem presented a preliminary budget for 2013 to town council at their last meeting, and while there is only $61,485 set aside for a number of service organizations that traditionally have been able to count on the town for support, one line item anticipates over $4 million for the Reservoir Hill development plan.

“There is a statutory requirement that council formally receive the budget prior to Oct. 15,” Mitchem explained to members of the couincil. “This presentation, or getting the budget in your hands, is to fulfill the statutory requirement. We’re not planning to go through the budget this evening. We’ll schedule work sessions starting the last of October or first of November to go over the budget in detail.”

The total expected revenue for the 2013 general fund is $3,206,433 with a total of $2,049,513 from all projected funding sources (including half of the year’s sales tax revenue) and an estimated $1,156,920 in reserves left over from 2012. Of this money, the town expects to spend $1,993,756 in 2013 and leave $1,212,677 in cash reserve.

The general fund is for government operating expenses, including staff salaries and grants to support various service organizations. While the budget is subject to change depending on the upcoming work sessions, it should be noted several line items that have received money in the past now show a zero for 2013.

The Archuleta County Education Center received $50,000 in 2011 and $25,000 in 2012, but won’t get anything in 2013 according to the proposed budget; the Pagosa Springs Community Development Corporation received $35,000 in 2011 and $75,000 in 2012, but won’t get anything in 2013; and Seeds of Learning received $5,000 in 2012, but is not slated at this point to get anything in 2013.

Other service organizations have put in requests for funding in 2013, including the county’s nutritional services for seniors ($8,500), the county’s transportation services for seniors ($4,450), Mountain Express ($20,000), Seeds of Learning ($7,500), Pagosa Counseling Center ($2,000), Southwest Safehouse ($700), ACVAP ($7,000), Crossroads ($15,000), San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging ($3,000), the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts ($5,000), and 4CORE ($1,727). There is a total of $89,877 worth of requests, with only $61,485 set aside in the budget to support these organizations.

“This is your policy document,” Mitchem told town council. “It is the implementation arm of policy, so we ask you to take a close look at the numbers and we will schedule those work sessions towards the end of the month and starting in November. There is a statutory requirement to pass a balanced budget by the end of the calendar year. Our target is for the first week in December.”

On the Capital Improvement side of the budget, the other half of the sales tax revenue, combined with various other income sources (including the highway users’ tax, cemetery fees, park users’ fees and intergovernmental revenues from Archuleta County, the Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association and the geothermal utility), is expected to give the town $2,038,600.

In addition, the town has budgeted for $7,319,478 worth of grant money that it has either already applied for or plans on applying for in the next year. This includes $1,300,000 for the Riverwalk and $4,395,000 for Reservoir Hill development, along with several grants from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Department of Local Affairs and the Division of Wildlife.

There is no guarantee the town will be awarded grants for which it applies, nor is there even any mention in the budget of where the town plans to apply for grants to fund the Riverwalk and Reservoir Hill projects.

As far as expenditures go, if the town receives all of the proposed grant money, it plans to spend $1,303,297 on streets, $4,596,000 on parks (including Reservoir Hill), and $2,125,000 on the Riverwalk and the Town to Pagosa Lakes Trail, among other things.

By the end of 2012, sales tax revenue is projected to total $3,179,524. This is a 2-percent increase over 2011 receipts and $220,580 more than what the town planned for last year at this time, when officials were setting up the 2012 budget.

With steady, yet modest increases in sales tax and lodgers’ tax revenue, town staff has projected that the receipts for 2013 will be the same — $3,179,524. Also, with just over a million dollars set aside as reserves in both the general fund and the capital fund, the town could continue to operate for seven months if sales tax were to completely stop coming in.

Sales tax revenue is split evenly between the general fund and the capital fund, and while it makes up 78 percent of the income in the town’s general fund budget, other money sources include taxes on property, cigarettes, gasoline, telephones, and cable TV, as well as fees for such things as liquor licenses, building permits, court fines, recreational user fees and intergovernmental sources.

Most of the general fund is spent on salaries and benefits for town personnel — including $225,250 for the town manager and town attorney, $123,121 for the town clerk and deputy clerk, $141,278 for the town planner and building official, $143,200 for the court staff, $533,568 for the police department, and $139,564 for parks and recreation personnel.

A report by Diane Sorensen, the finance director for Archuleta County, states the sales tax revenue for August was $631,317.77, which is up by $65,036 or 11.48 percent over August 2011. This means that the to-date revenue as of the end of August was up by 2.25 percent over the same period last year, slightly more than the 2 percent town staff used to formulate their budget.

2012 started out with four straight months of higher sales tax collection compared to 2011, with April up 15.47 percent. However, those gains were nearly eaten up in May, June and July, which were down by 12.47, .62 and 2.14 percent, respectively. August brought back a little bit of breathing room.

Looking at August by sector, the two largest industries, Retail Trade and Accommodations and Food Services, showed double digit increases. The Retail Trade sector at $302,244 was up by $49,313 or 19.5 percent. The Accommodations and Food Services sector at $137,041 was up by $18,243 or 15.4 percent.

In addition, Construction was up 30.5 percent, Information was up 22.1 percent, Manufacturing was up 11 percent, Wholesale Trade was up 7 percent, and Mining was up 6.7 percent, while minor gains in Educational Services and Health Care were offset by slight declines in Finance and Insurance, Scientific and Technical Services, Waste Management, and Entertainment and Recreation.

However, the biggest decline was for the Real Estate sector which dropped from $33,053 in August 2011 to $16,101 in August 2012, a decline of $16,952 or 51.3 percent.

This story was posted on November 14, 2012.