Eagle’s budget stays tight
A classic good news/bad news scenario characterizes the 2014 town of Eagle budget preparations.
The good news is sales tax revenues, which largely fuel the town’s operating funds, are predicted to increase by 6 percent during 2013. That’s welcome news after a series of sales tax revenue declines that started back in 2008 when the Great Recession hit.
The bad news is that property tax revenues in the town are expected to dip by $80,000, which will eat up a large portion of the sales tax gain. That news is compounded with the more than $200,000 hit Eagle took when the town of Gypsum elected to discontinue the Costco revenue sharing agreement. In short, the good news simply doesn’t spread far enough to make up for the revenue dips predicted for next year.
Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney characterized next year’s budget as a lean spending plan. There are no pay raises included (with the exception of some overall wage adjustments to the police department salary schedule) and the biggest spending initiative is the continued construction of roundabouts along Eby Creek Road — a project that Eagle and the Colorado Department of Transportation launched last summer.
“The biggest elephant you are seeing in the budget is what we have saved for, for five years — Eby Creek Road,” said Stavney. The town budgeted $3 million for road construction in 2014 and anticipates completion of the five-roundabout plan next year. The work will address the intersections at Market Street, the north and south Interstate 70 interchanges and Chambers Avenue along with improvements to the existing U.S. Highway 6 roundabout.
But even as the Eby Creek project becomes a reality, the town is looking at another long-term expensive road challenge. There is a $450,000 item titled “Grand Avenue planning” in the 2014 spending plan as the town turns its attention toward solving the traffic issues along U.S. 6 as it transects town.
Stavney also pointed to a $200,000 street resurfacing item in the budget, noting that amount for that purpose has been a regular part of the town’s annual spending. But regular does not mean desirable, said Stavney. “Just $200,000 annually for street resurfacing is not enough to realistically address the long-term maintenance needed,” he said.
Stavney noted that at that funding level, the town cannot crack-seal all of Eagle’s streets annually and that problem will be compounded as roadways reach their estimated pavement life of 20 years.
“Expect to be presented with an eye-popping schedule of upcoming pavement needs in 2014 and establish an appropriate level of funding to meet those needs,” notes the town’s budget detail.
Eagle is proposing a 10 percent water rate increase next year. Stavney said the impact of that increase would be to raise the typical in-town water rate from $26.44 per month to $29.10 per month during the winter. During the summer, the typical in-town water rate would increase from $112 per month to $123.55 per month.
The town’s wastewater fee will increase $4 per month and the trash collection fee will increase $2 per month.
Looking for balance
As the Eagle Town Board examined the 2014 budget for the first time last week, members honed in on the $70,000 gap between what the town spends and what it brings in, as it relates to the operating budget.
Because the town has a fund balance remaining from 2013, it will not run in the red. A $1 million fund balance is anticipated at the conclusion of 2013 and that money will offset the revenue gap, but town board members said they would prefer a spending plan where Eagle can live within its revenues.
“There isn’t a lot of fat in this budget,” Stavney said. He noted the plan does not include additional employees or large capital projects other than Eby Creek Road. A $50,000 contribution to the Castle Peak Senior Care Community and a $15,000 donation to the Eagle Air Alliance are both in the budget at the request of the board.
Rather than try to find the money during a public meeting, the town board members asked staff to take another look at the spending plan to see if they could identify $70,000 of cost savings. The town board will address the issues of the town’s capital projects during its next budget work session, planned later this month.
It would be really hard to spark a wildfire anywhere near Vail Mountain or Beaver Creek right now. Still, unattended campfires will always draw attention.