Facing 40% budget reduction in 2024
By Katherine Nettles
Gunnison County commissioners have been conducting interviews and making appointments for several county boards and commissions over the past month and asking themselves the question of where to shake things up and where to continue collaborations that work. There will be no changes to the makeup of the Gunnison County Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) board in 2023 as the county’s marketing fund faces a major budget reduction coming next year. But commissioners did make changes in other areas to bring in new ideas and expertise such as on the local hospital board.
In consideration of the recent voter-backed initiative that will now allow the county to redirect up to 40% of its Gunnison County Local Marketing District (LMD) funds to causes such as recreational infrastructure and workforce housing, commissioners acting as the LMD board have had in-depth conversations about how to help the TAPP board pivot in a new direction.
Two TAPP board member positions were up for renewal this year, and commissioners had a thorough discussion in late February about whether to maintain previous members or appoint someone new. Each considered new applicant Kendal Rota as a strong contender with a fresh and energized voice for the South Valley lodging base. Rota and her husband relocated from Colorado Springs a few years ago and have been renovating the Sapinero Village Campground near Blue Mesa Reservoir. Commissioner Liz Smith pushed for Rota’s potential to address discontent at the south end of the valley regarding TAPP.
“I think Kendal being on there could open up some healthy new channels of communication,” said Smith. She pointed out that the coming budget changes would include a learning curve. However, commissioners recognized that through a scheduling mishap, two LMD members were not present to weigh in on the decision and the appointment was continued to February 28, when board members Bill MacFarlane, representing Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and Gary Pierson, representing Western Colorado University, attended.
“We have a lot of things coming up for TAPP,” said MacFarlane at that meeting. “The economic uncertainty, everything that’s going on in the environment right now that’s against us and of course we have 2024 where we have a budget that we’re going to have to go down to a 60% funding process. I think where I’m at today is if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it.”
Pierson felt similarly. “I still go back to the job #1 that is in front of us, the pretty significant changes we need to make with our expenditures going into this next year, and I think having a steady hand on the wheel with our current board is a better decision,” he said. Commissioners Jonathan Houck, Laura Puckett Daniels and Smith agreed that the board in place is working well and encouraged Rota to stay engaged and look for other ways to contribute to the community.
“I really want to find a way to help Kendal integrate into some work in this community and continue with that momentum and excitement she has,” said Houck.
Commissioners had a lengthy deliberation about their picks for the Gunnison Valley Hospital Board of Trustees during their February 21 meeting as well, but went in a different direction. They appointed new applicants Marla Crockett and Stephens Mundy to the board and acknowledged the extensive contributions of previous members Bob Schutt and Polly Oberosler, who had applied for reappointment and were in this case replaced by the two new members.
Commissioners mixed things up partially by appointing Matt Feier to the Library Board of Trustees but also reappointing Sally Hays, with an overall focus on how each can contribute to the library district’s mission of expanding services in the North Valley now that the new Gunnison library project is complete.