Gypsum mulls savings plan for 2016 budget
GYPSUM — Sometimes municipal budgets are about spending and sometimes they are about saving. For 2017, Gypsum’s budget is about the latter.
After a couple of years that saw the town tackle large and expensive projects including the LEDE Reservoir expansion and the Gypsum Creek Golf Course irrigation system replacement, Gypsum’s 2017 capital plan is more modest. But, as Town Manager Jeff Shroll notes, Gypsum has some big, and costly, plans for the future so it is time to start building the up the bank accounts.
Those big plans include three new roundabouts — at Valley Road and Cooley Mesa Road, at U.S. Highway 6 and Eagle Valley High School and Valley Road and U.S. Highway 6. Along with the need to save up funding for those projects, Shroll noted Gypsum and Eagle need to finalize their devolution agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Devolution refers to a plan under way between the towns and the state to turn over ownership and maintenance of U.S. Highway 6 through and between the communities to municipal control. The state will pay the towns $12.1 million, which is intended to cover maintenance costs along the roadway for the next 20 years. When the state highway shifts over to municipal ownership, Shroll noted the process for roundabout engineering and construction should be simplified. Gypsum originally budgeted $242,000 for roundabout design this year, but that work will be completed in 2017.
Along with the roundabout design work, the town has plans to spend $90,000 next year for improvements to the Costco intersection. “Devolution will free us up to get out of some of the issues there,” said Shroll.
Town residents will see some projects along U.S. Highway 6 next year as devolution happens, including removal of the concrete barriers near the railroad overpass and the installation of a permanent message board along that corridor.
Gypsum has projected $4.7 million in sales tax receipts for 2017. That is up slightly from this year’s projection.
“We are not doing what the rest of the county is seeing with sales tax,” said Shroll. “For the past couple of years, we have been as flat as a pancake.”
That trend, in part, is tied to one of the town’s biggest producers — fuel sales at the Eagle County Regional Airport. When oil prices drop, so do the town’s sale tax receipts.
Shroll noted that the most recent sales tax figures for this year show an approximately 2 percent uptick heading into the fourth quarter.
On the real estate transfer tax front, this year’s revenues dipped a bit from the 2015 figure. The town collected approximately $783,000 in 2015 but only $650,000 this year.
“That’s pretty much all residential sales. There isn’t a lot of big stuff moving in town,” said Shroll.
Projects, contracts and donations
Gypsum hopes to present its newly completed master plan in the spring, a $100,000 effort that was budgeted for 2016. Additionally, the town budgeted $178,000 this year to launch its new economic development effort and has earmarked $174,000 for economic development in 2017.
The town will continue its law enforcement contract with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at an estimated cost of $868,000 this year.
Gypsum’s robust grant program is budgeted to hand out $54,000 to community groups ranging from the Eagle County Seniors to the Eagle River Youth Coalition in 2017.
And finally, as always, Gypsum will spend a chunk of cash on having fun. The town’s special events budget will be $202,000 next year and the Gypsum Daze budget stands at $250,000. There’s no word yet about who will headline the event concert.
The Gypsum Town Council held its first reading of the proposed budget last week and final approval for the spending plan will come in early December.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.