Vail council worries about spending growth |

Vail council worries about spending growth

VAIL, Colorado- Vail’s budget for 2012 is going to look much like the one for 2011, which means the final document will look quite a bit like the one passed for 2006.

After passing through the depth of the national economic slump, Vail officials are looking, cautiously, toward slightly better times. The Vail Town Council Tuesday got a look at some five-year projections for spending, and some members are worried about the town’s ability to pay those proposed bills.

Town Council members worried about adding new employees next year, and about the town’s ability to pay for benefits, an increasingly large share of the town’s budget.

Plans also call for adding a couple of full-time employees.

“I’m not comfortable adding back 2.5 of the three positions we cut last year,” council member Andy Daly said. “Why are you adding a building inspector?”

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Daly relented when told that the inspector’s position was for a town project, and that the project budget would pay for the position, but he said he’d oppose new hiring aside from those special cases.

Council member Kevin Foley said he’s worried about projections that show spending for employees will increase more than $1.4 million between 2012 and 2016.

“Are we getting value back for all we’re spending?” Foley asked.

Concerns about the number of employees may result in a study of how effectively the town is using its people.

Council members also wondered if the town has gone too far with event funding, and if some outside help might be needed.

“Normally I’m against bringing in consultants – we spend so much on them,” council member Margaret Rogers said. But that might be necessary to get an objective evaluation of the town’s staffing.

“We may be fine, and this is what it’s going to cost,” Rogers said. “But I’m concerned with the spiraling costs of staffing.”

Town manager Stan Zemler quickly added that he’s worried about using the term “spiraling” regarding town spending, adding that the town’s budget today looks much like it did in 2006.

“Our costs are not spiraling,” Zemler said. “We’ve done a very good job of pushing ourselves back.”

Town spending on just about everything was open to question, Tuesday, from new fire trucks to new rifles for the town’s police department.

Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller said the town replaces fire trucks about every 15 years, a few years more often than other departments where he’s worked. But, Miller added, he’s been told that magnesium chloride deteriorates trucks faster than other places. Still, Miller said, the town could perhaps delay purchasing new ladder trucks, which don’t get on the road as often as the town’s other fire vehicles.

Poring through the line items, Newbury stopped when she found a replacement for the town’s variable message signs.

“I hate those signs, especially for $200,000,” Newbury said. “Can you put useful information on (the new ones)? If all you can put on them is ‘don’t race through Vail,’ then don’t put them up.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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