Town of Vail to expand its employee numbers | VailDaily.com

Town of Vail to expand its employee numbers

VAIL — Town officials here don't expect much new revenue coming in 2017 and are planning accordingly.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday approved on first reading the town's budget for 2017. There are big numbers for a town of about 5,300 people — $37.3 million in general fund spending, fueled in large part by sales and lodging taxes. But, while the town has been setting revenue records the past few years, only modest growth is expected in 2017. Across the town's various departments, managers were told to hold any increases to just 1 percent.

Across the town's various revenue streams, income is actually expected to drop a bit — 1.7 percent from this year and 4.5 percent from 2015. One of the biggest budgeted declines comes in the town's Real Estate Transfer Tax, which is expected to bring in $5.8 million in 2017, a drop of 10 percent from 2016.

Property tax collections and the town's construction materials use tax are expected to be flat from 2016 to 2017, with slight increases expected in parking fees and lift tax collections.

The bulk of general fund money goes into the town's staff. Nearly two-thirds of Vail's general fund spending goes to paying wages and benefits. The town — like other organizations — measures employee numbers in full-time equivalent positions, which accounts for both full-time and part-time workers. Vail had 244 full-time equivalent positions in 2015. Town Manager Stan Zemler said that number is the same as it was in 2008.

Town services and facilities have expanded since th en, of course, so the 2017 budget expects to add 10.14 full-time equivalent positions in 2017. About half those additions will come from hiring staff for the town's welcome centers at the Vail Village and Lionshead Village parking structures. The town will take over operations of those facilities, but town finance director Kathleen Halloran told the council the town will spend about the same amount it did when it contracted out those services to a private firm.

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"We're a much bigger organization and have a bigger cost structure than we did in 2008, and in 2015, we did it with the same head count," council member Greg Moffet said. "A significant portion of this is overdue."

Potential Pay Increases

Town employees also are eligible to for raises for 2017. The town's merit-based system will award raises of up to 4 percent. Town human resources director Krista Miller said about 75 percent of town employees get most, or all, of the potential pay increases.

While it takes a lot of money to simply keep the town operating, other spending is dedicated to future projects.

This year's biggest item is funding the start of Vail's new housing plan. The plan has been approved by the council but details have yet to be worked out. That plan involves buying deed restrictions from home and apartment owners in order to keep prices down for full-time residents. It will be expensive — potentially as much as $5 million per year for a number of years.

In the first year, the town expects to drain a fund developers paid into in lieu of providing housing. That's roughly $3.1 million. Another $500,000 will come from the town's capital projects fund.

That fund — which is outside the general fund — accounts for roughly 38 percent of town revenues.

Additions to the 2017 town to-do list include $746,000 vehicle purchases. That list includes a new plow truck, a new front-end loader and modifications to the Vail Fire Department's wildland firefighting truck.

Aside from budget items, the town's staff has also done initial research on creating an endowment fund that would allow private citizens or organizations to contribute money to specific projects.

Council member Kim Langmaid said it's important to set up a structure to accept donations, so donors can take tax deductions on those contributions.

"Given that we have philanthropic residents, we should do this," Langmaid said.

A two-hour review session at the council's afternoon meeting was followed by a relatively short public hearing, after which the council unanimously passed the budget ordinance. That ordinance requires a second reading, which will come at either the Nov. 1 or Nov. 15 meeting.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

By the numbers

$37.3 million: Expected 2017 general fund spending in the town of Vail.

$24 million: General fund spending dedicated to staffing and benefits.

$3.7 million: Budgeted spending on a new town housing plan.

10.14: Additional full time equivalent positions to be added in 2017.

Source: Town of Vail