Town of Rangely facing ‘a trial’ due to budget woes

RANGELY | Following a work session the Town Council met for a regular meeting last Tuesday night. The council heard from the 2016 financial auditor as well as approved a program to reimburse police officer training.
During his update Town Manager Peter Brixius discussed the creation of a youth commission: a group of teenagers who learn about government procedures and leadership while having a voice in meetings. According to Brixius the members are typically selected by the mayor. He also informed the council that the Town Hall remodel is approximately 50 percent complete.
The 2016 town financial audit was presented by Colorado CPA. According to the audit in 2016 the town’s assets exceeded liabilities and the town’s cash and investments increased by $604,240. The RDA fund was over budget by $410. The town collected 99.9 percent of 2015’s property taxes, equaling $199,455. They expect to collect $183,702 of property taxes in 2017. The town’s total payroll last year was $1,867,744. The audit in its entirety can be found on the town’s website.
Trustee Andy Key raised concerns that sales taxes are currently $70,000 less than this time last year, on top of a $124,000 deficit already impacting the town. Key urged spending caution moving forward. Town Manager Brixius agreed, saying, “This year is going to be a trial.”
The council discussed a proposal for a police officer training-while-under-contract program. According to the town the police department has had a hard time retaining officers beyond four years. Chief Wilczek cited uncompetitive police salary as the major factor in losing officers. The program would reimburse the officer the cost of attending the police academy in return for signing a five-year contract. Additionally, the department is seeking to expand from four to six officers. The program is estimated to cost more than $27,000 per officer. Brixius envisions the program recruiting locals into the policing industry, which he believes will help with retention.
“I think we’ll gain some allegiance,” he said.
Key expressed concerns that it may be better to use the funds to raise salaries instead of paying for training, which he said would better address the problem. Key also requested an addition to the contract for reimbursement for failed classes. Andy Shaffer requested that instead of approving the program as a whole, that each time it is used it come before the council. The program, with Shaffer’s stipulation, was approved, with Andy Key as the only dissenter.
The council unanimously appointed Town Manager Peter Brixius to the Regional Planning Commission for Transportation Planning. The group’s primary function is to determine how federal transportation money should be spent within Northwest Colorado.
Following a discussion held earlier in the evening with the county commissioners the council quickly approved the changes to the Better City scope of work.
The council also approved more than $30,000 of additional funding for chip seal and road maintenance work.