Town takes cautious approach to budget

MEEKER I Uncertainty is the name of the game when it comes to planning budgets, not just for individual households, but for the Town of Meeker.
The way votes on bills like Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101 turn out after the Nov. 2 election may well determine what rural Colorado communities like Meeker are able to do in the coming year. With that cloud of uncertainty blocking the financial view between now and Jan. 1, Meeker Town Administrator Sharon Day said she has favored “a very cautious approach” to planning for capital projects in the proposed 2011 budget, which she presented to the Board of Trustees last month.
Revenue for 2011 is projected at $3,090,744 which includes $578,425 budgeted in reserve. That reserve number is lower than last year’s $677,665. With the exception of sales tax dollars, Day said, revenue has remained relatively the same.
One change Day pointed out is a higher fee paid to the county by the police department for dispatch services. The amount has increased from $60,000 to $72,000 for 2011. In 2006, the Town paid $12,000 a year. Since that time, the Town’s property tax revenue has remained stable, while the county’s has increased to more than $10 million. She said she is still negotiating with the Sheriff’s Office regarding the higher fee.
Because the budget is “flat,” Day announced there will be no automatic raises for the second year in a row. In lieu of a raise, Day asked the Board to consider a one-time employee compensation drawn from from the 2010 mineral lease and mineral severance payment of $994,000. The compensation would be a one-time payment of $1,000 for each full-time employee and $500 for each part-time employee, for a total cost to the town of $22,606.
“This is not a permanent increase,” Day said. “And until we know where revenues are going to land, a permanent salary increase may later result in having to lay off employees.”
Only two town employees are slated for raises: Building Inspector Carl Padilla, who was told he would receive a raise after he received his ICC certification; and Police Officer Jeremy Muxlow, who has been with the town a few years longer than the last hired officer but is still at the bottom of the salary ladder. The board agreed to support raises for both.
No money is budgeted for street improvements in 2011 either, as Department of Local Affairs grants have been placed on hold for two years.
Day addressed concerns raised about the road conditions on the northwest side of town as well. She spoke to the company working on County Road 5 and a road near Hayden with similar problems as the Pinyon and 11th Street areas in Meeker. The company, Yeh and Associates, Inc., said the 400 foot stretch of road they repaired near Hayden cost more than $1 million dollars.
The proposed 2011 budget is available for public review at Town Hall, at Meeker Public Library, or on the Town’s website,