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Cutting costs and contributions

Geraldine Haldner

The 5 percent cut out of the town’s general fund – money used to run the town day-to-day – “has created a lot of consternation across the organization,” McLaurin says. “It was painful, there were some hard feelings, but the group worked as a team and I’m pretty damn proud of them.”Among the cuts proposed are $125,000 in staff salaries, $200,000 in bus routes and $300,000 in cash contributions to nonprofit organizations.Where McLaurin plans to eliminate staff positions – Vail employs about 200 full-time workers – isn’t clear yet. Hopefully, he says, the positions can be eliminated by attrition and not layoffs.”I’m going to sit down and think about it,” he says.Over the last three years, Vail has eliminated a total of 14 full-time positions in response to declining sales tax revenues – which make up half of the town’s income – flat-lining at about $15 million per year. Services expenditures have continued rising, reaching $22 million this year.Making the cuts won’t make him or the Vail Town Council popular, but in times of financial hardship they are unavoidable, McLaurin says.”Anyone can run a town when there is enough money. I think this is an appropriate exercise for us internally,” McLaurin says.The proposed cuts include:- $300,000 in contributions, including $120,000 less to the Vail Business & Chamber Association; $15,000 less for the Vail Valley Chamber & Tourism Bureau; and $95,000 less than requested for the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.- $435,000 in staff and employee costs, including three or four full-time positions; $100,000 in seasonal bus drivers and maintenance positions; $80,000 less in overtime; and $17,850 reduction in the town’s budget for employee parties.- $317,000 in service cuts ranging from fewer code-enforcement officers at Check Point Charlie to the elimination of two bus routes (Lionsridge Loop and Vail Golf Course Loop).- $425,000 in other operating costs.The $1.5 million in cuts are offset by several additional expenditures, including $326,000 for performance-pay increases, $80,000 in health insurance and $61,300 for four new parking host positions.Councilman Greg Moffet says the pain wouldn’t be distributed equally among those causing the increased demand for services.”We are making it harder for locals to park,” Moffet said in reference to the town’s new paid winter parking plan. “Given that, does it make sense to reduce bus service?”We are cutting services to people who live here, who pay sales taxes 12 months out of the year.”The council directed McLaurin two months ago to cut $1 million in operation expenses as a good-will gesture to Vail voters, who are being asked this November to increase their property taxes.Council members are expected to give a final blessing to the proposed cuts Oct. 8.Vail sales tax revenues down againWith budget cuts and tax hikes already on the agenda, a continued decline in sales tax revenues certainly doesn’t help Vail’s financial picture.Sales tax collections for July, in fact, declined 9.1 percent, continuing a five-year trend.Overall collections for July 2002, $1.046 million, were down $104,435 compared to July 2001. Lodging experienced the greatest decrease, 10.8 percent; food and beverage sales declined 9.5 percent; retail was down 8.7 percent; and utilities and miscellaneous sales were down 6.1 percent.Vail Village alone generated $487,337 in sales taxes, 9 percent less than last year’s $535,411; retail sales were down 10.7 percent; lodging was down 9.8 percent; and food and beverage was down 7.6 percent.Interestingly, the small category of “other” was up 15.3 percent.Total July sales tax collected in Lionshead was down 14.4 percent, or $149,995 compared to $175,200 last year. Food and beverage sales alone were down 27.4 percent; lodging was down 14.8 percent; retail sales were down 5.1 percent.In East Vail, Cascade Village, Sandstone and West Vail, collections were down 2.3 percent, from $293,049 last year to $286,197. Food and beverage sales were in a dead heat with last year, however, as were retail sales. Lodging was down 8.7 percent, and sales in the “other” category were down 13.7 percent.Out-of-town sales declined 16.5 percent, from $147,403 to $123,139. Retail sales were down 45.6 percent; food and beverage sales, a small category, were down 74.9 percent; utilities and other sales were down 7.1 percent.The numbers do not include inflation, which is running approximately 1.5 to 2 percent.


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