Meeker board of trustees begins 2019 prelim budget discussions

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MEEKER | Meeker’s Board of Trustees received an estimated 2019 budget for preliminary review Tuesday, prompting a lengthy discussion. The 2019 budget, as proposed, will again require the town to delve into its reserves, which at one point averaged $8-10 million. If all the money budgeted is spent in 2019, it would leave the town with around $1 million in reserves.

What’s planned in the annual budget is not necessarily all spent. The estimated budget is almost always higher than actual expenditures, giving the town a “cushion” for unexpected costs that come up throughout the year. When it comes to capital projects like road repairs, water line replacements, sidewalks and other pricey projects, but putting a number in the budget gives the town leeway to pursue the project.

“Revenues remain very much the same,” from 2018, said Town Clerk Lisa Cook. Expenses, however, continue to rise, with a 10 percent increase in liability insurance, a 7 percent increase in health insurance, and a 3-5 percent merit-based salary increase for staff. Legal expenses have increased, and electrical costs are expected to double at Ute Park after installation of an irrigation pump. The town will need to pay an additional $8,500 to the county for dispatch services in 2019. The police department would like to make the town’s animal control officer a full-time position combining animal control and code enforcement, which will add about $45,000 to the police department budget.

“It’s a big part of our total (number of) calls, probably around a quarter,” said Chief Phil Stubblefield.

The board’s discussion stalled over the establishment of an abatement fund to deal with dangerous and abandoned properties, and potentially purchasing land to relocate the town shop, dog pound and water load-out from the bottom of Third Street.

“The budget should follow the town’s strategic plan,” Cook said. The board has two weeks to resolve their questions and come up with clear direction for staff.

Chief Stubblefield informed the board that Officer Matt Spangler has accepted a position with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and will be leaving in October.

“We’ll miss him, definitely. He’s been an asset,” Stubblefield said.

The board approved a resolution in opposition to Amendment 74, which will be on the November ballot. The proposed amendment, written by  out-of-state interest groups, seeks to amend the Colorado state constitution to require “just compensation” to private property owners in the case of lost property value due to government activity.

“This is an expansion of a right that’s already in place,” said Town Attorney Melody Massih. The Colorado Municipal League is encouraging municipalities to take a stand against the proposed amendment. “It will increase litigation,” Massih said. Similar laws passed in Oregon have since been repealed.

The board also approved resolution to consolidate two lots on Robert Street.

“It’s just an administrative action,” said Town Administrator Scott Meszaros. “It’s not a planning or public hearing item, but it’s prudent to do a resolution for future records.”