Eagle eyes 8 percent increase for 2017 budget
EAGLE — There has been a lot of change at Eagle Town Hall over the past year with a new town manager and new faces on the Town Board so it stands to reason the community’s budget process looks a bit different than in years past.
Topping the list of what’s new for Eagle’s projected spending in 2017 doesn’t reflect the personnel or political changes. It’s all about the economy. For the year ahead, the town is estimating an 8 percent increase in sales tax revenues. That’s the biggest increase Eagle has projected in more than a decade.
Eagle has a $5.9 million operations budget for 2017.
“2015 saw an 11 to 12 percent increase in sales tax and this year appears to be ahead of that,” said Eagle Town Manager John Schneiger. Those strong figures led the town to project 8 percent growth next year, which will see completion of the City Market remodel and other, smaller commercial growth around town.
With that additional money, the town plans to add personnel. The town hopes to have its first full-time human resources manager hired before the end of 2016 and is also looking at the addition of a school resource officer for the Eagle Police Department. Other positions include the addition of a new part-time position at the Eagle Regional Visitor Information Center.
“The visitor center has gotten to the point, excluding the maintenance of the building, where revenues are exceeding expenses,” said Schneiger. He said the increased staffing will reflect the center’s increased revenues.
Schneiger said the town also plans to hire part-time seasonal employees to assist with trail maintenance and with the buildings and grounds department.
On the capital projects front, the town has two big ventures planned — the Eagle Riverfront Park and the Lower Basin Water Treatment Plant.
The riverfront park will be financed through a special sales tax approved by Eagle voters last spring. Earlier this year municipal bonds were issued for the riverfront project and Schneiger said the 2017 budget includes a new fund where those bond proceeds are placed for eventual distribution.
“Some people have expressed the concern that there could be co-mingling of those funds. That won’t happen,” said Schneiger.
He added the new riverfront park fund will provide a mechanism for private and grant dollars to channel to the project.
Likewise, funding for the new Lower Basin Water Treatment Plant is housed in the town’s water fund where water tap fees, water service fees and development fees are channeled. The fund will have an estimated balance of $10.5 million at the end of 2017, but the cost of the new treatment plant is expected to be in excess of $20 million.
“This project is a major challenge for us,” said Schneiger. He noted the town has contracted with a water-engineering firm to complete a rate study and build a financing model for the project. Schneiger said construction of the plan will likely take three years and the town hopes to start building in 2018.
Town Park overhauls
While the riverfront park and water treatment plant projects will monopolize much of the town’s capital planning for 2017, Schneiger said a citizen’s committee formed to look at Eagle’s parks and open space needs had issued one additional recommendation for the year ahead — replacement of the equipment and ground cover at the Eagle Town Park playground.
Because the riverfront park sales tax question also included wording to allow proceeds to go to other town parks, financing for the town park playground would come from the bond issue. Schneiger said preliminary planning for the park project includes ADA accessibility improvements, which would likely include rubber mat ground covering. The town has estimated $350,000 for the overall project.
Eagle’s 2017 budget also includes $300,000 for a communitywide pavement maintenance plan. The town recently completed a pavement study.
“Our streets are in very good shape, way better than the average of communities in the United States,” said Schneiger. “We want to maintain that with our streets and the streets in Eagle Ranch are now approaching 15 years old.”
Also on the streets front, the towns of Eagle and Gypsum have contracted with the Colorado Department of Transportation for the devolution of U.S. Highway 6 through and between both communities. Under the devolution process, the towns will take over management and maintenance of the former state highway. For 2017, Eagle has budgeted $300,000 for a traffic study to address long term needs and projects for the highway stretch through town.
“Right now it’s hard to see how we will come up with all the funds for the things that are desired by the community along the roadway,” said Schneiger.
The Eagle Town Board will continue its review of the proposed spending plan through November and final adoption of the budget is planned at the board’s Dec. 13 meeting.
At approximately 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Vail Fire and Emergency Services responded to a reported structure fire at 1977 Circle Drive in West Vail.