County 2014 CIP budget much tighter than 2013 |

County 2014 CIP budget much tighter than 2013

Derek Franz

Each year, Eagle County Commissioners have to decide which capital improvement projects will get done and there is typically far more CIP requests than available funds.

This has been a unique year in that respect – almost all of this year’s 32 CIP requests have been funded.

For 2014, the county is already anticipating $11 million in CIP requests and only about $2 million to work with. That means a lot of projects won’t be approved for CIP funding.

The formal CIP requests are due Aug. 19. After that, the CIP committee will prioritize those projects and present the list to commissioners for the final say.

Two of the commissioners – Kathy Chandler-Henry and Jill Ryan – are new this year. On Tuesday, county staff briefed them about what the traditional CIP budget process has been and how commissioners can make changes if they wish.

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“I think it would be good if we can manage expectations better for people making CIP requests,” Ryan said. “Let’s put it in writing so they know what we’re basing our decisions on for which projects receive funding.”

A first in 2013

For the first time that Eagle County Controller Tom Hyatt remembers, this year almost all of the CIP requests have been funded. Only six CIP requests out of 32 have yet to be approved and are still up for discussion in the near future.

“We had $10 million this year because we were saving for renovations at the Eagle River Center and then it was decided we would not to do the renovations because they were more than we could afford, which freed up the money that had been saved,” Hyatt said.

It is more typical to have significantly more CIP requests than funds will allow and that is very likely the case for 2014.

Paying off debt

A significant burden on the annual CIP budget is a debt payment of almost $1.7 million on the Eagle County Justice Center that was built in 2010. The way it is currently structured, that payment will be made annually for another 17 years.

Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton told commissioners they might consider paying off that debt sooner to free up more money later on.

“That is an option,” Hyatt said.

Of course, if commissioners elected that route, even fewer capital improvements could be made during that time.

Setting precedents

There are two small CIP requests that commissioners are being asked to reconsider in the near future. Commissioners will have to weigh their decisions carefully because the outcome could create a precedent. In one case, the county is being asked to reimburse Eagle-Vail for school-zone signs that the community already purchased.

“We want to encourage new things and if we start reimbursing for things that have already been paid for, there will be no end to the requests,” Hyatt said. “Besides, one of our guidelines for small CIP requests is that they have to be at least $10,000.”

The other item commissioners are being asked to reconsider is the cost of a sidewalk on Stone Creek Drive in Eagle-Vail. The county originally agreed to split the $50,000 cost with Eagle-Vail and the project ended up costing $75,000. Eagle-Vail is asking the county to cover the entire amount of the extra $25,000 instead of splitting that down the middle. If the commissioners choose to deviate from the original agreement, that could have implications for other agreements in the future.

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