HomeNews Water fees going up as part of Crested Butte budget
Water fees going up as part of Crested Butte budget
Written by Mark Reaman
Wednesday, 05 October 2011
Should locals get the bro deal?
The Crested Butte Town Council is looking over the final budget proposal for 2012 and there will be some changes coming. The latest direction includes raising monthly water bills and increasing the application fee for medical marijuana applications.
The town staff will research creating separate funding tiers for utilizing town facilities like the park pavilions and Town Ranch Event Park. The council is leaning toward charging more for people who don’t live in town. Also as part of the proposed budget, 18 local non-profit organizations will receive some funding, but the days of huge grants seem to be over. In a work session on Monday, September 26 the Town Council reluctantly but firmly agreed to raise the monthly water bill from $22 per month to $27 for the basic 8,000 gallons per residence. According to a memo from Finance Director Lois Rozman and Pubic Works Director Rodney Due, “The increase in the base rate is necessary to cover operating costs (including depreciation) of the water division. There is no proposed increase for the wastewater division.” They estimated that leaving the water rate at the current level would result in a $98,000 operating loss. Even with the increase, the fund is expected to lose $11,000. “We have seen a lot of efficiencies in the last three years,” explained Due. “And in fact we are saving about 50 million gallons of water a year compared to three years ago. But the fixed costs don’t go down and it is getting more expensive. Still, even with the new rate, our water is the best deal of any commodity around.” “The reason we do an increase like this is we don’t take more than we need each year,” said Rozman. “We ask for smaller, more frequent increases than some other entities.” Due said he hoped there would be no need for another increase next year. Town Manager Susan Parker said the staff would continue to look for further efficiencies to save water and money. “The guys are always looking for ways to save,” promised Due. “No one is looking to spend money on anything new and shiny.” “This wasn’t easy and there were some heated discussions internally over this,” said Rozman. “We have to raise the fee but when it is penciled out, what other option do we have?” asked Mayor Leah Williams. “Everything costs more, unfortunately,” said Councilperson Jim Schmidt. “This is one of your most important assets and you need to take care of it,” advised Parker. “In 19 years, this is one of the toughest budgets I’ve done. But it’s needed,” said Rozman. “And as a person who will pay the increase, it is ugly.”
Who might get a “local” rate? The council spent some time debating how to charge for use of public space like the Town Ranch Event Park and the pavilion at Rainbow Park. The staff is recommending charging $300 per day to use the ranch site or $750 for the entire weekend. It is expected to be a popular place for summer weddings. “It sounds like a screaming deal but I’d like to think a local would get an even more affordable deal,” said Councilperson Dan Escalante. Parker said the previous council had discouraged a tier system when charging for public property rental and so the staff was following that direction. “At the $300 price for a tented site, we’re giving it away at that price,” Parks and Recreation Director Jake Jones told the council. “This is the local’s rate.” Jones said the similar facility in Mt. Crested Butte goes for $500 per day. “As a guy who works a lot of weddings, I see a lot of people coming here with little connection to the place. They just want to get married in the mountains,” said councilperson and Alpine Express bus driver Schmidt. “We shouldn’t gouge them but we are providing a really nice amenity for very little cost. These people are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for their weddings. That price is nothing.” The council wanted to explore how best to charge different fees. Councilperson John Wirsing said fees should perhaps be less for people living in Crested Butte than for someone living in, say, Crested Butte South and beyond. “It is funded by our tax base, after all,” he said. Parker said the staff would do some “homework” and come back to the council with a recommendation on a tiered system to charge people before the next summer event season starts.
$40K in donations earmarked Local non-profit organizations will immediately get $39,250 in town contributions. The council has budgeted $50,765 and will disperse the remainder of the funds over requests that come in throughout the year. The largest grant recommended was for the Center for the Arts for $7,500. The Office for Resource Efficiency will get $5,000. The council will consider the budget and approve the final document before the November election.