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City Council gets first look at proposed 2011 budget

by Bill Knowles

WALSENBURG- The month of the budget moon has arrived and the city council began looking over each line item in the proposed 2011 budget hoping to bring together about $7.165 million in revenues and $9.98 million in expenditures by Dec. 15, the deadline for submitting a budget to the state.

    With no layoffs projected for 2011, the proposed budget capital expenditures will total about $2.36 million.  The largest amount set aside for major improvements is $1.65 million for the completion of the wastewater treatment plant, which was started in 2010.

    Other expenditures for capital projects are $184,000 for the Walsen and Pine Street intersection left turn lane and $450,000 for street paving on the improvement.  $37,500 has been budgeted for repair of the depot roof and $35,000 has been allocated for gas line maintenance for the Purgatory River crossing.

    There will be no new employees hired over the coming year.  The police department takes the lead in salaries at $556,574.22 for 2011.  

    Items that showed the biggest increases from 2010 to 2011 caught the council’s eye, such as the police department’s projected increase in annual hospitalization insurance cost from about $82,000 in 2010 to around $122,000 for the coming year

    Health insurance costs are the primary increase in the proposed budget.  The plan the city is currently paying for will include a 7.79 percent increase.  The city will pay 75 percent of the premium increase with city employees paying the remaining 25 percent.

    The mill levy will remain the same for 2011 as it is in 2010.  General operating expenses will continue to assess a mill levy of 15.256 and an assessment of .757 remains for refunds and abatements for a total mill levy of 16.013.  Based on the gross assessed valuation of $26,175,572 the mill levy will generate about $415,000 in property taxes for the city’s General Fund.

    The approach to the work that needs to be done to finalize the 2011 budget is notably free of the tension that council members faced at the end of 2009 as they prepared the budget for 2010.  Last year’s budget work was set against a backdrop of layoffs.  As council members left Tuesday evening’s meeting several members, including Mayor Bruce Quintana, commented that this year’s budget projects a more positive outlook for the city then last year.

    Next Monday, Nov. 15, the Finance Committee will pick up discussions where city council stopped on Tuesday.  Then on Tuesday, Nov. 16, is a regular city council meeting and on Nov. 23, the city will host a budget meeting open to the public.  The last budget meeting for the month will be on Tuesday Nov. 30.