By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff
The die is cast for Carbondale’s spending next year, though Town Manager Jay Harrington characterized the budget approved on Dec. 12 as “a living document.”
If anything, it’s conservative projections for income — a 2 percent sales tax increase compared to 3.4 percent this year — and expenses may help avoid dipping into reserves. That’s precisely what happened last year, when trustees accepted the possibility of reducing savings to 75 percent of annual operating costs.
This year’s budget reduces that figure as low as 71 percent thanks in part to the Town’s decision to partner with Aspen Valley Land Trust for the purchase and improvement of a parcel at the base of Red Hill.
“There’s kind of a last minute opportunity we’d be foolish not to take advantage of,” Mayor Dan Richardson noted.
Even so, some trustees worried that it might prove a slippery slope.
“I feel like we kind of drew a line in the sand at 75 percent,” Ben Bohmfalk said.
Added Marty Silverstein, “You don’t want to be taking from your reserves every single year… we need to figure out how to get more money into our capital fund on a regular basis.”
Harrington encouraged trustees to look at the big picture, with more than 14 million dollars in the bank across several accounts.
“We’re kind of right at that sweet spot that I wouldn’t go any further,” he said. “We focus on that general fund, but on the big picture I think we’ve kept ourselves in a pretty good financial position.”
The budget also included a 3 percent cost of living increase for employees but, Harrington said, intentionally kept the total number of employees the same. As such, a last minute request from the Mount Sopris Historical Society to make its executive director a Town position was not met with enthusiasm.
“It’s not only late, but not something that’s been on our to-do list,” Richardson said.
Indeed, employees and benefits are by far the Town’s biggest expense.
“It’s grown as the healthcare costs have grown,” Harrington said “…and there’s no relief in sight.