Monday, September 24, 2018
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Council leaving easy money on the table… zip, nada, zilch

When you are facing a financial dilemma but purposely choose to leave easy money on the table, it’s hard to go ask the parents for more money to help fix the dilemma. This is sort of the box the Crested Butte Town Council is starting to find itself in.
At its first 2013 budget work session, the council grasped that they were digging into reserves to pay for town amenities. That’s not a great place to be financially. Revenues have slowed down the last couple of years and the need to pay for things like parks, police cars and printers hasn’t gone away.
Given this “new normal” scenario, last week I suggested the council begin looking at opportunities to re-evaluate their spending and the possible need to seek out new revenue sources. A couple of the council members even mentioned the possibility of seeking a new, minimal, mill levy to help pay for ongoing operations of the parks and recreation department.
But it would be hard to have much support for that idea when for the last two years the council has consciously chosen to leave about 30,000 easy dollars out of their budget coffers. That is the amount the town has forfeited each of the last two years by refusing to sign a franchise agreement with Atmos Energy. Unlike the vast majority of municipalities in the state, the council has refused to come to terms with the energy franchise. Historically, that agreement has resulted in revenues of about $30,000 annually for the town. It is essentially generated from a small surcharge placed on the bills of those using gas in town.
When the council first declined to sign a contract with Atmos because the company wouldn’t include some requested town insurance provisions, I commented that the town was being shortsighted. I will continue to make that argument. The town has no franchise agreement with Atmos and thus no additional protections, let alone the sticking point of the negotiations between the town and the utility. The council certainly doesn’t have the language it insisted on and they don’t have the revenue stream that was provided. They are getting zip, nada, zilch. The council position has driven some of the staff nuts.
This council can’t complain too much about declining revenues when they are choosing to ignore an historical revenue source with a valued partner that has always played fair with the town. Instead they reject tens of thousands of dollars a year while getting no additional protection and continue to shun a friendly utility. Is this really the best way to “fight the man” and has it been worth it?
The council should perhaps take this budget time and the opportunity to correct this situation. Hey, $30,000 may not sound like much in a multi-million dollar budget but that $60K they’ve chosen to not collect over the last two years could have easily gone to help pay cash for a couple of police cars, some Big Mine bathrooms or a really, really nice printer.
Look, I don’t know yet whether a new tax will be needed to pay for amenities everyone wants or if budget adjustments can be made to ease the maintenance problems…but I’d certainly suggest it’s not a great idea to go ask the parents for more money when you are leaving some easy money on the table.

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