Meet the Candidates

Welcome to the great 2009 Crested Butte Town Council election. This is the final installment of “Meet the Candidates.” We hope this has helped.
—Mark Reaman

 

 

 

 TOWN COUNCIL

 

Guy Ciulla
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
Candidate Guy Ciulla was out of town and could not respond to the question.

 

Jay Harris
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
In the current state of our economy and the constantly decreasing amount of sales tax dollars we need to focus on what we have as a town business. I believe if all money matters of the town are examined as if it were a business we could come to conclusions about the need for new buildings, retrofitting the old ones and not putting the town into debt to do it. We need to be wise with our money and find ways to increase the number of visitors that come to town in the winter by finding ways of luring them to stay IN Crested Butte, and not on the mountain. Only by forging our own future will we be able to bring in the sales tax dollars to fund our town and keep it running the way we want. 

 

Don Haver
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
I believe in using existing buildings as long as they are functional, safe and cost effective to maintain. The council should have an updated capital plan which would identify all town owned buildings and when they need to be replaced (and budget accordingly).
The estimated maintenance on all town owned buildings should be a part of the approved annual budget. The budget should include a reasonable reserve for unplanned maintenance.
The town must balance its budget. In good economic years, the council should add to its reserves. Had our past and the current councils not done this in the past, the current council may have had to reduce services or consider a tax increase in the current poor economic times. 
Increased taxes should be the last resort. If implemented, hopefully the tax increase could be collected primarily from non-residents (similar to the way the current lodging tax works).
Bonds should be used for needed major projects that cannot be paid for from current budgeted operating or capital funds. A bond is like a mortgage: there is a limited amount that the town can borrow and a part of the loan plus interest must be repaid annually.
The council and the staff are conservative. We currently have the needed reserves so the town has not had to reduce services or seek a tax increase.

 

Brian Kilkelly
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
I would want to see the demand for building new facilities be shown in a way that strongly indicates which facilities need to be built. Maintenance of new and existing structures needs to be efficient, both in cost and in terms of energy usage. It needs to become easier for current homeowners and owners of rental properties to effectively modernize their properties with energy efficient applications as much as it needs to be a requirement for any new construction. There are plenty of buildings currently empty, this is not appealing to visitors or citizens. I would want to utilize buildings that already are in place and built, and remodel them instead of tearing them down and replacing them. The use of public funds needs to be spent with the utmost attention given to how the public wants those funds to be spent. The process is currently a public process, but not everyone has the opportunity to participate fully. One way to change this is to create a type of online forum, where various tasks and budget proposals could be discussed in full view of the council, and the rest of the citizens of Crested Butte. I would make it my job to make it easier for the public to contribute to the process, not simply say “go to more meetings.” 

 

Roland Mason
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
As everyone knows money is a lot harder to come by lately. This holds true for individuals, businesses, and townships. The current Council, along with the town staff, is doing a great job budgeting what money we have. Sales tax revenue counts for 57 percent of our town’s income and projections show an 11 percent decrease for 2009 and a 12 percent decrease for 2010 (both based off of 2008 actual). At this time I believe we need to maintain the buildings and programs we currently have, keep people employed, and have a plan of action in place when our local economy starts recovering. 
One program I would like to see get more attention and funding is our transportation service. I believe an investment in this area would bring great rewards to everyone (directly or indirectly) in the Gunnison Valley. I would like to see the town bus run to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. I would also like to see the RTA buses from Crested Butte to Gunnison run on a 30-minute schedule. By increasing the amount of buses on the road we make our valley safer, more affordable, and cleaner for our citizens.

 

Jim Schmidt
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
Much of the money generated for capital improvements comes from the Real Estate Transfer Tax which to no one’s surprise is down in an off economy. Even in a good year it is always a balancing act. Do you buy a new marshal’s car, a new front end loader, or do improvements to the park? The Council relies on the Town Manager and staff for many of these recommendations though it is ultimately up to the Council to make the big decisions. The Council and the staff must always take into account the future costs of maintaining any buildings or projects. Are paved streets cheaper to maintain than gravel? A covered ice rink is cheaper to maintain than our outdoor rink but how long does it take to make up the construction costs in savings?
I have sat through 19 and now 20 budget sessions and while I was on Council, I never missed one. They can be tedious and are notoriously poorly attended by the public. But they are what turn policy into reality. The Town, by law, must submit a balanced budget every year. During my years on Council, we took a very conservative view. Save up money for road projects rather than bonding and paying interest. We did things like trading for the old school and up-grading it to a functioning town hall at a small fraction of what a new building would cost. The skateboard park was built at less than a quarter of the cost of similar sized structures. Frugality and innovation are my by-words.  

 

Phoebe Wilson
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
I am not a finance expert, but through my degree in environmental economics I understand the importance of using thoughtful cost/benefit framework for financial decision-making. This means reviewing the impacts of decisions on the community and matching impacts against a well-designed and accepted long-term plan.
Budget, bonds, taxes: we need to prioritize these in a manner that will maximize current and 
future benefits. Achieving a balanced budget when property values are stagnant/decreasing and 
expenses are on the rise is never going to be easy. We will need to review what other goods and 
services can yield revenues while carefully examining where the incidence of this action will fall.
Bonds and taxes go hand in hand. If we are going to borrow against our future, we need to ensure that 
there will be sufficient future tax revenues to support issued bonds. For this, council will need to promote smart, sustainable economic growth decisions so that town can maintain and
 increase the value of our capital assets, ie schools and roads.
No one loves taxes, but they are useful tools; they are easier to put in place, tweak, and remove (hopefully).
With regards to current buildings, one way to achieve increased maintenance and energy efficiency would be to set a period of tax abatement designed to reach certain goals, followed by municipal audits (which can be directed to offset foregone tax revenue) when goals are not met. For funding future community improvement projects, TIF districts (tax increment financing) maybe an increasingly viable alternative given the dynamics of our municipality in that we are small enough to manage the effects of targeted growth. 

 

John Wirsing
A question from a member of the public: Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
I have attended three budget meetings in the last month. Having no idea where our town was financially I have been very happy with what I have learned. When our state is struggling to deal with huge cut backs and California is issuing IOU’s, I was concerned how things were at home. I am really impressed with the way each department has tightened their belts. Wages have been frozen but no one is losing their job. Our town staff has done an incredible job to be in the good situation we are in. All of the town employees deserve a lot of appreciation for the work they do, especially with frozen wages.
 As far as balance going forward, first we have to take care of what we have before venturing into new projects. We should consider new projects when we know we are solid maintaining what we have. Everyone is feeling the effects of this economy and increasing taxes will hurt people and should be avoided. I believe it is very important to be fiscally responsible with the public money and run a tight ship. It is better to be conservative with spending than to be bankrupt.
The transparency of the public budget meetings instills a lot of trust in our staff. If the time comes to ask the public for money, it will be an honest request from an open and responsible local government. With the people we have handling the funds now it shouldn’t happen anytime soon.

 

MAYORAL CANDIDATE

Leah Williams
Money. How would each candidate balance building new facilities vs. maintaining existing buildings? How would they handle ongoing maintenance for new and existing infrastructure? How would each candidate prioritize balanced budgets, increased taxes, issuing bonds? Where are they on spending our money?!
We reviewed town leases last year to make them equitable and affordable, and to recoup a portion of both capital and general maintenance costs. In the near future we want to implement a 3-5 year plan. Getting the Depot restored will happen in 2011. With public/private partnerships we can work together to provide amenities the public wants: an ice rink, expanded Center for the Arts, enhanced Mountain Theatre and more. We are a small town and cannot strap our residents and businesses with burdensome taxes. For every $1 in property taxes paid on residences, our commercial properties pay $3. This is state law. It would be great to change it; until then we need to get creative with partnerships to fund both capital and operating expenses.
Water and Sewer is funded through fees. We currently have low interest loans to make capital improvements. The fund balance is above the policy guidelines and the users pay for new service. Public Works is very efficient making repairs and getting the job done. The Street and Alley Fund lives on a small portion of the property tax we pay (about 13 cents on the dollar). The philosophy is to build up the fund balance to pay for projects.
Colorado law requires we balance our budget. We have conservative fiscal policies. Our fund balances are above the minimum required. We cannot raise taxes without taxpayers’ consent. We may want or need to issue bonds in the future, but Crested Butte has always had a pay as you go policy.

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