The Cortez budget for 2018 began to take shape during a Tuesday meeting and workshop as the council prepared for its upcoming final vote.
Eight city departments requested funding for next year in a workshop before the meeting, making up the last round of budget hearings for this year. During the regular meeting, the council voted to approve the 2018 fees for the planning and building department and the Cortez Municipal Airport, and they approved a first reading of the draft budget. It will be put to a final vote in a public hearing on Dec. 12.
The departments that submitted budget requests on Tuesday included the special events department, finance, the city clerk, the Cortez Public Library, the Cortez Municipal Court, human resources, the Cortez Police Department and the City Council itself. Public works director Phil Johnson also gave a final recommendation on a water bill increase for town residents. Most of the requested budget increases were not dramatic, but a few involved new expenses and new fees for residents.
One of the fees will be a 10 percent increase in water bills, a change from the possible 15 percent increase the council discussed in October. At Johnson’s recommendation, council members agreed to charge a base rate of $21.80 per single-family water meter in 2018, instead of the current $19.80. The 15 percent increase would have bumped it to $22.75, but Johnson said he believed the smaller increase would help the city more over the long term.
“Go with the lowest rate option,” Johnson said. “It’s going to increase our sales ... and it has the lowest impact on consumable, or in-house use.”
Special events coordinator Jon Brooks requested an increase in the city’s marketing budget, as well as a wage increase for the Colorado Welcome Center, which recently hired a new part-time employee. For the city’s summer Third Thursday events, Brooks requested an increase in the event insurance budget.
Finance director Kathi Moss proposed several minor budget increases, including one to cover the price of shared office supplies for all of City Hall, which are purchased through the finance department.
City clerk Linda Smith requested, among other things, funding to cover the city’s participation in the 2018 election. Next year, Smith said she plans to help accept and verify ballots in the election, which has been the county’s sole responsibility in previous years.
“This year is the first year we’ll have access to that, which is pretty awesome,” she said.
Library director Eric Ikenouye said the library is doing well, with an average of 3,000 visitors per week. He requested funding to update some reference materials and electronic databases, as well as purchase new chairs. He also said the library plans to undergo a roughly $25,000 needs assessment in 2018, some of which could be financed by a Department of Local Affairs grant, to determine whether the building needs modification.
Carla Odell, of the municipal court, requested a 4 to 5 percent raise for the municipal judge. Human resources director Matt Cashner’s requests mostly centered on funds for more employee training.
Police Chief Roy Lane said he expected most of his budget to stay the same for 2018, but he asked for an increase in the corrections fund to respond to the county’s recent 10 percent increase in jail fees.
City Manager Shane Hale asked for a large increase in wages for his office, mostly to pay for a new intern hired through DOLA’s Cathy Shipley “Best and Brightest” program. He also requested an 8 percent increase in the city’s Mesa Verde Country tourism contract.
The planning and building fees approved by the council during the regular meeting included a $55 increase in permit and use tax fees for construction of a typical 1,500-square-foot home. The council also gave final approval to an increase in the “cash-in-lieu” fees for new subdivision developments, which was approved by the planning and zoning board on Oct. 3. The airport’s landing fees will increase from $1.90 to $2 per 1,000 pounds.
Overall, the latest draft of the 2018 budget includes $32.37 million in expenditures, a roughly $1 million increase from 2017. The council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing for the budget, along with final revisions to the 2017 budget, at its next meeting on Dec. 12.
This article was re-posted on Dec. 1 to correct and clarify information about the special events budget.