Vail may slice $1M from budget |

Vail may slice $1M from budget

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” The town of Vail is expecting layoff two employees and freeze a number of vacant positions as part of a $1-million budget cut. However, despite the cuts, the town said that keeping customer service top-notch is its highest priority.

The Vail Town Council is expected to make a decision on the 2009 budget at next Tuesday’s meeting.

The cuts from the town’s $31.4 million general fund were proposed after revenue numbers for December showed a significant dip. The town’s sales tax revenues have been dropping since September, and the community development department said it has seen a sharp decline in building permits and other development activity.

The revenue slowdown, coupled with sparse advance reservations for the town’s lodges in the coming months, are “ominous signs of what’s yet to come for February and March,” said Councilman Andy Daly.

The jobs that may be cut or not filled were mostly from the community development department, which had grown over the past five years to deal with the town’s building boom and a number of major redevelopment projects, said Town Manager Stan Zemler.

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“Unfortunately, the reality of the situation has set in, and the work just isn’t there any longer,” he said. “It’s a different business model, and we’re restructuring our redevelopment activity to respond to the changes.”

Zemler said he couldn’t say which specific positions would be cut.

The town will also freeze some of the funds set aside for merit raises, the town’s new employee housing assistance program will be downsized, and individual department budgets will also be cut.

At least two other jobs related with redevelopment are expected to be cut in April, and other employees in the department may be moved around to different duties as projects finish up, Zemler said.

Mayor Dick Cleveland said the cuts the town is facing don’t come as a surprise. The council set its 2009 budget knowing that new revenue information might mean that more cuts would be needed.

“Things are actually about where we thought they might go,” he said. “We’ll probably revisit (the budget) mid year to see where we’re at.”

The further slimming of the 2009 budget follows cuts made late last year that included $800,000 off operating expenses and a freeze on $5.6 million in capital projects. The projects on hold include new public bathrooms, new bike paths, bike lanes and road improvements.

The internal cuts won’t hurt customer service, and visitors in town shouldn’t be affected by budget changes, town officials said.

“All we sell is service,” Cleveland said. “As a municipality, our people plow the streets and provide services, and we’ll dip into the reserves if necessary so our guests don’t notice the difference.”

Daly said that this year more than ever, it is important for Vail to maintain its services.

“Those guests that are coming ” they’re spending precious dollars, and they’re expecting a first-class experience,” he said. “If we let them down, in 2009 or 2010 they’ll think about going someplace else or not going on a ski vacation at all.”

Zemler said he’s optimistic about Vail’s future and its ability to survive the economic challenges. The town is on strong financial footing and has healthy reserves, he said.

“We’ve been ahead of the curve because of the significant redevelopment investment, and that will position us well to stay ahead of our competitors,” he said.

The last cuts the town experienced were in 2003, when 10.5 full-time positions in police, public works, community development library and administration departments were cut. The $1.6 million in cuts also included cuts in bus services, marketing and contributions to outside organizations.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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