Derek Franz

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October 24, 2012
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Gypsum budget grows conservatively

Gypsum Town Council and staff members are busy drafting the 2013 budget for its first reading before council Nov. 13.

On Monday, Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said overall numbers are improving slowly since the economy hit its low point between 2008 and 2010.

"Our bottom line was the worst around 2008/2009," Shroll said. "The airport was shut down for work on the runway and it was during the height of the recession."

For 2012, total revenue is estimated to end up around $6.3 million on top of $2.6 million carried over from last year. That's a grand total of $8.9 million. The total of expenditures from 2012 is anticipated to be $7.5 million.

The 2012 fund balance is currently at $2.9 million and Shroll said the year will likely finish with $2.1 million.

"We originally thought we'd be at $1.2 million," Shroll said.

Last year finished with a balance of $2.6 million.

Shroll anticipates a reserve fund of about 15.2 percent in 2013.

"We're spending down our reserves but the reserves get built back up," he said. "The town has always managed to carry a reserve fund of about 15 percent. In 20 years, near the beginning of my career, there was only one year where the reserve fund dipped down to about 13 percent."

The 2013 draft budget predicts sales tax revenue to continue rising slightly. Shroll said 2012 will probably finish just under $4 million and 2013 will be "right at" $4 million. The original 2012 budget anticipated sales tax revenue being a little less than 2011.

"At least within the town, consumer spending has been OK," he said. "Airport spending was down a little with the dry ski season but we had a large retailer that did OK and the Family Dollar store opened this year, which made a difference."

Permit fees are also up a little this year and are projected to continue that trend next year.

"We're seeing some new home sales in Stratton Flats, Sky Legend and Buckhorn Valley," Shroll said. "Those sales aren't like they were during the heyday but they represent jobs and people spending residual income."

Construction of the new Army National Guard High Altitude Training Site at the Eagle County Regional Airport also accounts for the rise in permit fee revenues.

"That stuff has helped offset what we've lost in property tax revenue, which is expected to drop again in 2014," Shroll said.

While the dry winter hurt the ski season, it probably helped the golf course.

"Revenue at the Gypsum Creek Golf Course is up," Shroll said. "We'll never make money at the course but I think next year we'll get it so we're not subsidizing it as much. I'd be delighted if we could get it to break even, it's so expensive to operate the thing."

He said the golf course is maintained as an amenity that draws visitors to town.

The biggest expenditure question for 2013 has to do with the water fund.

"God willing, I think we're going to build LEDE Reservoir," Shroll said.

The reservoir expansion is costing the town a little more than $5 million. The town has been working on expanding LEDE from 473 acre feet of water to 947 acre feet for years.

The permitting process held up progress last year and upped the price. Last year's drought also slowed progress but resulted in more than $3 million that remained unspent this year and will rollover into 2013.

Even if the reservoir construction is finished then, LEDE likely won't be filled until 2014, Shroll said.

Other unique expenditures include two possible real estate deals.

"We're looking at a couple land acquisition pieces next year," Shroll said.

The town is budgeting $425,000 from real estate transfer tax revenues for that.

"Those are also up a smidgen," Shroll said. "Looks like we'll finish the year with around $300,000 in real estate transfer tax."

One of the possible land deals is associated with the biomass plant being built next to the American Gypsum plant by Eagle Valley Clean Energy LLC. EVCE only plans to use about 18 acres of the approximately 90-acre property. EVCE has been in talks with Eagle County and Gypsum to potentially turn the remaining acreage into open space along the Eagle River.

"We've got some money set aside to leverage grants and/or go into partnerships," Shroll said.

The other land deal isn't far enough along for Shroll to discuss yet.

The town is also budgeting $125,000 from its conservation trust fund to pursue and match grants for new facilities at the town's Shooting Sports Park.

Otherwise, capital improvement projects for 2013 include:

• Overlay of Mayne Street at the Horse Pasture subdivision - $187,000

• Overlay of Green Way - $154,500

• Overlay of a portion of Estes Lane - $51,000

• Overlay of Black Bear Drive between Bradford Lane and Vicksburg lane - $91,500

• Overlay of River View Road between U.S. Highway 6 and Porphyry Road - $120,000

• A major cul-de-sac rehabilitation on Springfield Street - $150,000

• Seal coat on Vicksburg Lane - $25,000

"Another big expenditure - it's almost $200,00 - is for master-planning improvements to the irrigation system at the golf course," Shroll said. "We've identified about $1.5 million of irrigation needs there. Obviously we're not going to do all that at once. We'll chip away at it."

Shroll said Gypsum is one of the few communities that hasn't had to make cuts in its staff or service to make ends meet in the last five years. After a four-year wage freeze, town staff members received 3 percent pay increases last May but no raises are slated for 2013.

"We never cut any services to the public," he said. "We've always operated kind of lean and mean, and if anything we're upping our level of service these days."

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The VailDaily Updated Oct 24, 2012 02:03PM Published Oct 24, 2012 01:23PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.