Building bigger reserves a priority
by Mark Reaman
As budget time approaches for the town of Crested Butte, the Crested Butte Town Council put together a list of priorities and updated its five-year goals. Those priorities will be used by town staff to guide development of the 2020 budget and extended capital budget.
The immediate priorities for the council in 2020 include things like beginning the implementation of a town Climate Action Plan; performance of “sorely needed” street repairs and maintenance; construction of hockey changing rooms at Big Mine Park; staying within the town’s operating budget; and developing the framework for an “InDeed Program,” based on Vail’s formula where the town pays people owning free-market units to add a deed restriction.
Looking into the future, the council has more broad goals in its five-year plan. The council wants to increase the percentage of residents living in town by: achieving a 75 percent full time occupancy; having 30 percent of the units in town be deed-restricted, including having 15 rental units for town employees; having permanent removal of mining claims by the Mt. Emmons Mining Company on Red Lady; having one year of operating revenues in reserves for the General Fund; reducing the greenhouse emissions footprint of town’s operations by 50 percent versus 2017 levels; implementing a traffic and parking plan; and upgrading the Marshal’s Office facilities.
The council has dipped into its reserves to fund various projects in the town over the last several years. They want to ultimately maintain at least one year of operating reserves in the town’s funds, so they hope to add to the reserves in 2020 instead of tapping into them.
Town finance director Rob Zillioux said, “For 2019, the General Fund budget was $5,430,906. This includes the parks operating expense. Capital expenses, such as building a new park or purchasing cop cars is separate. At the end of 2019, I project reserves to be roughly 77 percent—thus, a gap to goal of slightly more than $1 million. We would have a very hard time getting to 100 percent in 2020, but we will move in that direction.”
Zillioux explained that the General Fund revenues come primarily from sales tax, which generally fluctuates with the economy. Therefore, the town seeks to build reserves for when sales tax decreases.
Overall, mayor Jim Schmidt said the council has some lofty but attainable goals. “The five year goals are ambitious, some might say impossible. Others such as the 30 percent of units being deed-restricted are within our grasp,” he said. “Most of the 2020 goals are in the pipeline and are budgeted for 2020. I have been to many mountain towns with vision statements very similar to ours. The secret is in the execution and judging by all the compliments we heard recently from the contingent of 66 people from Park City, we have been very successful with the limited financial resources we have.”