Will town fund local economic development efforts?

Pagosa Springs’ preliminary budget for 2015, which is available to the public on the town’s website, was presented at last Thursday’s town council meeting, with particular attention being focused on expenditures for service organizations and economic development.

“The point I wanted to make with this,” Town Manager Greg Schulte explained, “and this is related to the expense part, is that we receive requests for funding from different service organizations, like we heard from Seeds of Learning yesterday morning.” Schulte was referring to a presentation and request for funding by Lynne Bridges at the joint town/county work session on Sept. 6.

Schulte then pointed out that general fund revenues for 2015 are projected to be $2,310,269, while expenditures are budgeted at $2,303,411, leaving the town with a cash reserve of $1,444,828.

“Service organizations are budgeted at the level they were last year,” Schulte continued, “so the budget right now does not include additional funding for the multitude of organizations that requested additional funding.”

Schulte drew the councilors’ attention to the budget, which estimated that, by the end of 2014, the town will spend $61,763 on service organizations, and while the exact same number is budgeted for 2015, there are actually $111,063 worth of requests from a variety of organizations, including the Pagosa Springs Senior Center, Mountain Express (Archuleta County’s public transportation service), Seeds, Axis Health System, Thingamajig Theatre and more.

Schulte then explained a footnote at the bottom of the page. “Last year, the policy of town council was to budget 3.25 percent of the tax and contracts revenue category under the general fund for service organizations.”

Because the budget is premised off a 3-percent projection of growth in revenues, the total amount for service organizations could be bumped up to $66,455.

According to the town’s budget, however, service organizations are budgeted separately from investments in economic development.

By the end of 2014, the town will have spent $15,000 on economic development, including a $10,000 donation to the Downtown Development Task Force, $2,500 to Southwest Rural Philanthropy Days and $2,500 worth of tax rebates to businesses that expand or invest in the downtown area.

The budget for 2015 includes $20,000 for economic development. However, the town has received $63,500 in requests for funding from this line item in the budget. Besides the incentive program, these include $15,000 for Seeds, $3,500 for the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College in Durango, and $25,000 for an unspecified “economic development organization.

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