Crested Butte dips into cash reserves during 2009 budget

ORE receives largest service grant donation

The town of Crested Butte has completed 99 percent of its annual budget process and the council is ready to approve the 2009 financials at their next two meetings. 




The $3.1 million general fund and $1.1 million general capital fund both dip into the town’s reserves to make the budget come into balance. In fact, just under $300,000 will come from the reserves this year for the general fund and $255,000 will go toward general capital from the reserves.
“It is a tight budget but we are luckier than some other communities who don’t have the reserves we have built up,” explained town finance director Lois Rozman.
“We pared down the budget and brought it in on a shoestring,” said town manager Susan Parker. “The staff agreed to a lot of cuts to make this work. There isn’t much fat in this budget.”
Town staff is budgeted to receive a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase and another potential 2 percent merit-based raise. “A lot of towns can’t do anything right now,” said Rozman. “We have been in the same position before and I’ve sat in the chair and had to explain to the staff why they weren’t getting any raises. We are fortunate to have the reserves.”
The final budget work session last Monday evening centered on water and sewer rates (see related story on page 1) and service grants for local non-profit organizations. The council agreed to continue with the proposed “energy conservation” fund of approximately $20,000. Non-profits were awarded about $31,000 in grants, leaving approximately $12,000 in the service grant fund not yet spoken for.
Mayor Alan Bernholtz, councilman Reed Betz and Rozman formed the subcommittee that took a pencil to service grant requests and made funding recommendations. “I wanted to really look how the money was spent in the community and I think we were fair,” Bernholtz said.
Councilman Skip Berkshire asked for a couple of concessions. He agreed to the $2,000 grant for the summer Alpenglow music series but wanted to let the Center for the Arts, which oversees the concerts, know that “Their sound system sucks. I think they need to work on their acoustics. The similar concerts on the mountain and in Gunnison sound a lot better.”
Councilwoman Leah Williams sits on the Center for the Arts board of directors and promised to bring the issue up at the next meeting.
Berkshire also requested and received another $500 for the local Literacy Action and English as a Second Language program, bringing its total grant to $1,000.
Berkshire convinced the council that the request from the Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days should be funded in total. The three-day event will bring in big charitable donors and connect them with small non-profit organizations, including local ones.
“This looks like it will be a huge event and it could be very important to the community,” he said. “It’s an investment for a lot of our local non-profits.”
The event will be in June 2009 and will bring in more than 400 people. The host community is expected to see a great financial benefit for its non-profits. The council agreed to donate $3,500 to the event.
The other grants varied from the largest, a $5,000 donation for the operating fund of the Office for Resource Efficiency, to several $500 donations for organizations such as the Adaptive Sports Center, the local museum and the Mountain Theatre.
Overall, the council felt the budget process went fairly smoothly. “I think our staff does a phenomenal job,” commended Bernholtz. “Now, during these tough times, it might look like a good time to be working for the government. But this staff has always worked hard and they take great care of the community. We are very lucky.”
Berkshire thanked Rozman for being the fiscally conservative budget shaper “for years and decades. It has allowed us to have the reserves to weather tough times. Being conservative with the town’s money pays off in the long run.”
The council must vote on the proposed budget at the November council meetings before it becomes official.

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