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Council fears another budget hit

by Eric Mullens
WALSENBURG — Lower property valuations in Huerfano County could mean an up to $50,000 loss in city general fund revenues from property taxes.
The Walsenburg City Council heard more grim financial news Tuesday night from interim administrator David Johnston, who said the city’s general fund could see a large decrease in funds if initial calculations from the county assessor’s office hold true. County valuations and assessments are down and tight times are ahead, Johnson told council members as budget work for next year is about to get underway.
He said the estimated $50,000 loss could affect all general fund areas within the city which includes police services.
Huerfano County Assessor Louise Sandoval said Wednesday recent prior property tax valuations in the city were $27,537,033 and will drop to $22,508,877 this year. She said a lot of things including the prison devaluation from $29,000,000 to $18,000,000, as well as ‘different things not working’ in the overall economy, account for the devaluations.
The city council is expected to discuss this issue and other monetary topics at the next city council finance committee meeting on Monday, September 17.
Council members heard preliminary figures on the recently ended season at Wild Waters and this item as well is expected to be a topic for further discussion within the finance committee as a number of items disclosed indicated the city-owned water park operated at 406 percent over budget through July this year. Council member Erin Jerant questioned a number of over budget items in the water park’s expenditure report mainly in the area of supplies cost.
The September 17 meeting of the finance committee should see a number of hot-topic agenda items as council has promised discussions concerning potential water/sewer rate increases at that meeting.
In other business:
• The city conducted a three-minute long public hearing regarding Ordinance 1014, which excludes certain property (Huajatolla Hills) from the Northlands General Improvement District. No one rose to speak against or in favor of the ordinance, which later in the meeting passed 6-0, with council members Craig Lessar and Rick Jennings absent from the meeting.
• Also passing on unanimous votes were Ordinance 1015 which calls for the ballot issue of a transfer of two-thirds of the sale tax restricted to capital improvements to the water and sewer enterprise funds for the purpose of repairing or replacing water and sewer infrastructure that is at least three years old at the time the repair or replacement is needed.
• Approved Resolution 2012 R-19, a housekeeping item that ratifies appointments to the Walsenburg Housing Authority that were not accomplished under the previous administration.
• Authorized the closure of a part of Sixth Street all day Friday, September 28 for a street concert and dance during the annual Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival.
• Granted a special events permit for liquor sales at the Oct 5th Spanish Peaks Community Foundation’s Legends of Huerfano County Gala at the community center.
• Pledged the city’s two votes as San Isabel Electric coop members to incumbent District 5 candidate Jacque Sikes’.
• Adopted Resolution 2012 R-20 which accepts the low bid for asphalt overlay and double chip seal work on city streets. Only two companies responded to the invitation to bid and the contract was awarded to Walsenburg Sand & Gravel at $433,860. The city will conduct another bid opening for the Walsen Avenue Turn Lane project at the First Choice grocery intersection tomorrow.
• Authorized the donation of left over concession items from Wild Waters to Peakview School for use in Junior Panthers sports concession stands this season.