Cortez parks department requests budget increases for wages, construction

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 6:12 PM
Parque de Vida and the Cortez Recreation Center.

The Cortez City Council’s 2018 budget discussions continued with funding request hearings from three departments on Tuesday.

During a lengthy workshop before the regular meeting, council members heard proposed budgets from the Cortez Municipal Airport and the General Services Department. Funding requests from the Parks and Recreation Department took up the majority of the workshop, though, as director Dean Palmquist and Cortez Recreation Center supervisor Joye McHenry submitted proposals. Their preliminary 2018 budget would include increased employee wages and a few large construction projects.

The proposed rec center budget will include a $1.3 million increase, most of which is for replacing the heat, ventilation and air conditioning system. But McHenry said that amount is higher than she will likely need in the final budget.

“I had to guess on that number prior to us getting all the bids and the information, so that number’s a little high,” she said. “The bid came in lower than that.”

The rest of the money would go to repair or replace fitness equipment, conference chairs and solar system controls. McHenry also asked for $8,600 to replace lobby furniture, upgrade security cameras, repair the climbing wall and perform other maintenance on the rec center.

McHenry asked for a $36,533 increase in the regular wages budget, because of the creation of a fitness specialist, a few new hires this year and a recent increase in the minimum wage. Amendment 70, passed in 2016, requires the minimum wage to be increased by 90 cents annually until it reaches $12 per hour, so most of the city departments will request wage increases in next year’s budget. The rec center, which employs a large number of the city’s part-time staff, could see more direct impacts from the change, but City Manager Shane Hale said he expects all departments to be affected.

“It kind of ripples through the whole budget,” he said. “We’ve got four different pay classes that are making under what the new minimum wage is going to be, so we have to adjust everything upward.”

Russ Machen, of the Cortez Municipal Airport, and Rick Smith, of General Services, also mentioned personnel funding increases in their budget proposals.

Although she said it would not affect the budget, McHenry also used the workshop to propose changing the rec center’s annual passes to include the price of fitness classes. Currently, pass holders are required to pay an extra fee to participate in the center’s classes, but McHenry suggested more people would buy annual passes if that fee were included. Several council members expressed their approval of the idea, and McHenry said it would likely go into effect Jan. 1.

For the rest of the parks and recreation budget, Palmquist’s largest requests for funding were tied to capital projects or land acquisitions planned for next year. His proposed budget included money for the purchase of the old Montezuma-Cortez High School site, which the council had approved at its Oct. 10 meeting, and the Keith Evans property he hopes to add to the Geer Natural Area. He also requested an increase in the advertising budget for Conquistador Golf Course, funding for several maintenance projects on the course, increases in the department’s administration budget and money to buy new maintenance equipment, including a fertilizer spreader.

Parks and Recreation’s capital projects budgeted for 2018 include new pickleball courts at Centennial Park, improvements to the Cortez South Softball Complex and its playground, a new playground for City Park and improvements to the trails and signs in the Geer Natural Area. The city has applied for Great Outdoors Colorado grants through the Montezuma Inspire Coalition to help pay for some of the projects.

City Council will vote on the final 2018 budget in December.