How Vail intends to spend budgeted $95.6 million in 2023 |

How Vail intends to spend budgeted $95.6 million in 2023

Town budgets conservatively given economic uncertainty ahead

Vail Town Council approved the town's final 2023 budget at its Tuesday, Dec. 5 meeting.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily Archive

The town of Vail is heading into next year with a cautious outlook as the Town Council approved its final 2023 budget.

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the Town Council approved its 2023 budget in a 5-1 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Travis Coggin dissenting and Mayor Kim Langmaid absent from the meeting.

At a high level, the approved budget includes $95.6 million in expenditures, with the largest spending going toward municipal services ($64.2 million including events, contributions, staff salaries and more), capital improvement spending ($29.1 million), and debt service ($2.4 million).

The funds for these expenditures are coming from a budgeted $89.7 million in total revenues, a 7.4% decrease from the 2022 amended budget that is driven by expectations of a slowing economic environment as well as a 15% decrease in sales tax collections from 2022.

As part of its conservative approach, at the Nov. 1 meeting when a first draft of the budget was presented, Carlie Smith, Vail’s finance director, said that for operating expenses the “general direction we gave departments is to stay flat, cut back where you can, but also increase where you are seeing price increases. They did build that in.”

Support Local Journalism

Some of the areas that Smith reported seeing expenditures increase the most were the following:

  • Employee development, with a $62,000 increase, returning to pre-COVID levels
  • Rentals, with a $56,400 increase due to increases in the number of master leases
  • Contract services, with a $400,000 increase largely due to the full implementation of the town’s new loading and delivery program as well as cleaning services for expanded facilities including public works and additional rental units purchased by the town for employees
  • Utility costs, with a $130,000 increase due to both an increase in the volume of employee units purchased as well as increased costs for utilities
  • Vehicle fuel and maintenance, with a $312,000 increase due to the overall increase in fuel costs as well as associated with the police department’s take-home vehicle program

The town’s largest expenditure each year is its personnel spending for staff salary and benefits, comprising 64% of the town’s operating expenditures according to a staff report. In total, the town has budgeted $41.2 million for not only 347 full-time position equivalents, but also for a merit-based performance raise and a $1.5 million placeholder to implement the first phase of a “premium pay compensation philosophy.”

In keeping with its conservative mentality, the town did not include any new requests for new positions in the 2023 budget, with the expectation that it will review departments’ requests around mid-year.

Capital plan

The town’s next largest expenditure is in capital projects, with $29.1 million budgeted in 2023.

There are seven significant capital projects that comprise just over 46% of the total capital costs for 2023, according to a staff presentation. These include:

  • $1.4 million for three neighborhood bridge repairs
  • $1.75 million to upgrade the Main Vail roundabout lighting with LED light and smart transportation equipment 
  • $1.5 million for underground pipeline infrastructure needed to implement new streetscape snowmelt infrastructure
  • $2.5 million to underground Holy Cross Electric from Main Vail to East Vail in conjunction with fiber conduit ($1 million of which is funded by franchise fees)
  • $2.5 million for its InDeed program
  • $2.5 million placeholder for employee rental unit purchases
  • $1 million for Civic Area Plan and Dobson design and engineering (as well as $100,000 in planning funds)

For Coggin, who was the only dissenting vote in Tuesday’s final budget approval, several of these projects were the reason for his “no” vote.

On Nov. 15, Coggin said his rationale for “generally not supporting the budget,” included the “uncertainty that’s out there with East Vail,” citing that that is a “big number that we don’t really know where that’s going to be as well as the potential for the Fed to continue raising interest rates from an already high level, bookings still being within cancellation periods and overall uncertainty. He also cited a desire to defer certain capital projects given these situations.

“There’s things in here that I think we should be deferring until later — bridge repairs, roundabout lighting projects, even reducing the placeholder for employee rental purchases from $2.5 million down to something a little bit lower — I could get on board with the budget on some of that, but with the way it is right now, I can’t support it,” Coggin said.

Other expenditures

Outside of some of these larger capital projects, there are many other expenditures outlined in the 2023 budget serving the four main buckets of priorities for the Town Council: community, experience, economy and environment

This includes the town’s event sponsorship program, which is budgeted at $3.1 million in 2023, a 7% increase from the 2022 amended budget and an amount that is offset by a one-time $1.2 contribution from the Vail Local Marketing District. At the Nov. 1 meeting, Alex Jakubiec, the town’s revenue manager, said that the increase is “primarily due to earmarks for the National Brotherhood of Skiers events as well as two large signature events that have not yet been determined.”

The town has budgeted $125,000 for the 2023 National Brotherhood of Skiers summit, set to take place in town in February.

A skier makes a turn at Snowmass ski area on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, during the National Brotherhood of Skiers Summit. The summit is heading to Vail this February for the organization’s 50th anniversary, and the town has budgeted $125,000 for the gathering.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Additionally, the town has budgeted $520,000 for council contributions, which Jakubiec said are provided to nonprofit “partnership organizations that provide services in the town that the town itself does not provide.”

Jakubiec added that these contributions have not been increased for the past two years. However, in the 2023 budget, there was a 3% increase to organizations that requested higher amounts and for those that requested flat amounts a “full funding” of their requests.

While many of these are organizations that apply annually — including Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame, High Five Media, Friends of Vail Mountain Rescue, Eagle Air Alliance and more — there were two, one-time large contribution requests this year.

This included a $1 million request from the Vail Religious Foundation, which the council requested to re-evaluate after the first quarter, as well as a $200,000 request from Eagle County ECO Trails for the completion of the Eagle Valley Trail. The latter of which was approved at a $100,000 contribution in the final budget, although Coggin had voiced it was another reason for his dissenting vote.

“I think we contribute significantly on our own to having a great trail experience between Vail Pass and Dowd Junction,” Coggin said on Nov. 1.

Given these concerns, the council had identified its desire for the funding amount to be used specifically for the Minturn Spur section of the trail.

In addition to these contribution amounts, there was also $250,000 budgeted for “early child care education support” using tobacco tax revenue. 

Other programs and experiences listed as expenditures for 2023 include, but are not limited to, $65,000 for guest service programs like PrimaVail, $500,000 each to move development ahead on Timber Ridge and West Middle Creek housing projects, $250,000 for a regional e-bike share program, $1.3 million for the loading and delivery program (offset by projected $600,000 in delivery companies’ fees), $200,000 for the Fire Free Five Rebate Program, $100,000 placeholder for wildlife habitat improvements and more.

Where the money comes from

Around 74% of the town’s total revenue comes from six sources, according to a staff report. In the 2023 budget, the general sales tax comprises the largest piece of the pie, projected at $34 million, a 15% decrease from 2022.

The other five revenue sources included in this percentage are projected for 2023 as follows:

  • $4.5 million from its housing sales tax, an 8% decrease from 2022
  • $5.9 million from its lift tax, a 6% decrease
  • $5.7 million from property taxes, flat year-over-year
  • $7.8 million from parking revenue, flat year-over-year
  • $7 million from its real estate transfer tax, a 48% decrease

By the end of 2023, the town is projected to have $79.5 million available in its reserves, the majority of which is in its general fund. This, Smith said on Nov. 15, is a “very healthy fund balance.”

This represents a decrease in reserves, projected to decrease by around $51.2 million, or 37.8% during 2022. Part of the reason being, as Smith said on Nov. 1, that “during 2020 and 2021, the town was able to build up quite a lot of reserves, because of conservative budgeting as well as better than expected revenue and also some delays in capital projects.”

Looking ahead at the next year as well as the next five years, these reserves are projected to remain steady, at around $80 million, as the town adds back in capital projects as well as budgets for “very large housing expenditures included in the 2022 amended budget,” Smith said.

“However, looking forward, there are some large projects including Timber Ridge, the Western side of Middle Creek, finding a permanent home for the Children’s Garden of Learning as well as environmental sustainability projects,” Smith said on Nov. 15.

2022 final budget supplemental

On Tuesday, the Town Council also unanimously approved the final budget supplemental for its 2022 budget “to catch up on items that council has approved since our last supplemental in June and to just true-up things at year-end, recognize grant awards,” said Assistant Town Manager Kathleen Holloran.

This was the town’s fourth budget supplemental in 2022. On a high level, these adjustments included an increase in budgeted revenue by $4.8 million and an increase in budgeted expenditures by $4.4 million.

Just some of the added expenditures include $50,000 for a housing grant writer, an additional $160,000 for attorney fees due to increased “litigation and overall activity for the town,” $297,000 for an oversize turnaround at Bighorn Road, $50,000 for Fire Free Five after higher-than-anticipated participation and more.

Some of the revenue increases came from an additional $313,000 from the housing sales tax (bringing the total forecasted to around $4.8 million); around $2.2 million in additional collections from the real estate transfer tax (totaling $9.3 million in collections over the projected $7.5 million); as well as several grants.

To view the town’s approved 2023 budget and its fourth budget supplemental, visit

Support Local Journalism